I didn’t become a serious film lover until about a year ago. Therefore, I believe that it is only appropriate that my first film review should be about the movie that more or less caused me to transition from a passive film watcher into a certified cinephile.
In terms of depth, there is not much to say about The Addams Family. Essentially it is a homage to Charles Addams’ series of one panel comic strips, which were originally published in The New Yorker from 1938 to his death in 1988. These strips featured a cast of bizarre characters engaging in even odder acts. The entertainment from these strips derives from the twisted humor found in them – a specific brand of dark comedy that Chaz Addams was noted for.
Until ABC created a television show based off of these drawings in 1964, the family members featured within the strips had not been given any official names.
The Addams Family, as many pop-culture fans are familiar with, consists two children, Wednesday and Pugsley, along with their Grandmama, Uncle Fester. The family is attended to by Lurch, the gigantic butler, and Thing, a dismembered hand that pops up here and there around the house. Morticia and Gomez Addams are the leaders of this quirky clan. What is interesting about these two is that out of all of the other American TV couples on air during this period, they arguably… Oh, how do I word this…
Oddly enough it was this romantically involved relationship that made me fall in love with the Addams Family. More importantly, I loved what this couple – what this entire family – represented. That no matter how weird or displaced I ever feel from the rest of the world, I can always remember that there is a niche for me and my eccentric ways. That despite feeling/being different from other young women my age, there is hope that I will eventually find someone who will be wholly smitten with me and will love me completely *fingers crossed.*
When I first became enamoured with the TV series, I vaguely remembered that I had seen trailers for an Addams Family movie as a preview on old VHS tapes. I then came to discover that the movie I remembered was actually a 1998 direct-to-video piece of work that post-dated the two entirely different Addams Family films from the early 90’s.
Of course I was overjoyed at the prospect of being able to fuel my Addams obsession. As I have mentioned it lacks substance when compared to other, “legitimate” movies, but one of the appealing aspects of the Addams Family cannon is that it is not supposed to be taken seriously; it’s supposed to be pure fun.
Considering the source material was basically a series of non-sequiturs, the movie does a surprising job of creating a moving plot. The conflict arises when Fester Addams (Christopher Lloyd) returns home unexpectedly after being missing for 25 years. Gomez (Raúl Juliá) is overjoyed at being reunited with his long-lost brother again. (In the film, he is portrayed as being Gomez’s brother, whereas in the TV show he was presented as Morticia’s uncle.) But because Fester is accompanied by a Dr. Pinder-Schloss (Elizabeth Wilson) who explains that he can only be with the family for a week or so, Morticia (Anjelica Huston) becomes rightfully suspicious. As it turns out, Dr. Pinder-Schloss is a con-woman by the name of Abigail Craven, and “Uncle Fester” is actually her son Gordon. Their diabolical plan consists of Gordon impersonating Fester long enough in order for them to seize the impressive Addams Family fortune.
However, as “Fester” spends more time with the Addams clan, he comes to the realization that he feels more comfortable with them than he ever has with anyone else in his entire life. This is due to the fact that he IS Fester Addams. (SHOCKER) Through this epiphany, Fester decides to stop his “mother” from succeeding in her plight, oddly enough through the power of literature.
Later it is revealed that Fester actually was lost for 25 years, and had suffered from a serious case of amnesia. Ms. Craven found him in the Bermuda Triangle and brainwashed him into being her “son.” This information was recovered after a lightning bolt struck Fester in the noggin during the mini-hurricane. Again, don’t question the movie’s logic. Just nod and smile, nod and smile.
What this film accomplishes that a kitschy, black-and-white sitcom could not is glamorizing the Addams’ gothic world. Everything is draped in a palette of blacks, blue-blacks, blood reds, grays, and pale whites. For being regarded as the “odd ones,” the central Addams Family and their assorted relatives are the only characters that look natural in a world seemingly tailored for them.
The humor is black – much darker than a 60s television series could hope to produce due to censorship. Many of the jokes derive straight from Chaz’s comics, as well as the TV show. Describing exactly what type of humor this is can be determined by perhaps the funniest scene in the movie, in which Puglsey and Wednesday act out a scene from Hamlet for their school. At the conclusion of their performance, fake blood is released via swordplay and completely soaks everyone fortunate enough to sit in the first few rows. The children’s family cheers them on in a standing ovation while the rest of the audience is eternally scarred.
While I do love this film in many ways, I don’t think it is my favorite film. If this is the case, why do I hold it in such high regards?
Since I was more familiar with the television show before watching the movie, I naturally expected the characters in the film to be similar to their predecessors. I do like certain representations better than others, such as Uncle Fester (Jackie Coogan) and Lurch (Ted Cassidy) from the original series and Wednesday (Christina Ricci) from the film. John Astin as Gomez in the TV show is thoroughly enjoyable, and his physical appearance is the most similar to the Gomez in the comics. However, Juliá’s portrayal of the character is absolutely brilliant, as he manages to capture the extreme, childlike spirit that defines Gomez Addams while maintaining and aura of suaveness.
The incredibly talented Carolyn Jones immortalized the beautiful Morticia Addams, and I expected Huston’s portrayal to be similar.
Instead I got this:
Note: I didn’t know who Anjelica Huston was before this movie. No one ever told me about her characteristic, powerful screen presence. No one warned me that I would be
incredibly turned-on incredibly enamored by this presence. While I continued to watch the rest of the movie, I questioned my sexual orientation wondered why I hadn’t been aware of this woman before.
As a growing young woman, I’m constantly trying to discover my identity by defining who I am, what kind of person I want to be, etc. Up until this movie, I had never felt the impact of any actor’s presence – at least not consciously. For me to be so taken back with such a gorgeous, stunning woman was inspiring. I wanted to learn everything about her – to the point where I now feel like some kind of compulsive stalker – just so that maybe I could learn how to carry a similar presence. During this processes, I started to be more aware of the prescence of any actor in all of the movies I watched. This lead me to look at other elements of film and how they could also i the audience’s perception of the film. Elements beyond acting, such as direction, lighting, music, costumes, etc. I realized there was a certain high that could be obtained from watching certain movies that I never took notice before. I started to learn to appreciate the power of films that make me think and reanalysed certain aspect(s) of life.
In other words, by falling in love with The Addams Family TV show, I fell in love with the movie adaptation. This led me to fall in love with Anjelica Huston , which led me to start watching movies from a more analytical perspective in an effort to find the magic that lay within them. This inevitably led me to start to become interested in film history, and how the Hollywood culture of years past have affected movies today.
This led me to realize that damn, I think I’m a film nerd.
As I said, I wouldn’t say The Addams Family is my favorite movie. I also have to admit that I don’t always “feel the magic” of every movie. That is only because not every film speaks the same way to every person, which makes it fantastic knowing that there is such a wide selection of movies for people to watch in order to find ones that click with them. Someday I hope to find that “most friggin’ amazing film that was ever ever ever created – EVER.” Until then I’ll just have to keep watching – and re-watching – as many movies as I can.
And good golly, are there a lot of films to watch.
(Thank you for reading my first film review. I hope to eventually hone my skills at this blogging business so that it seems like I know what I’m doing. Which I don’t. But don’t tell anyone else that.
Also, if you couldn’t tell, Anjelica Huston is my favorite actress. So if you don’t like her, for whatever reason, you probably shouldn’t read my blog. Because eventually I will end up reviewing most of her movies. Just a heads up.
It should also be obvious now why I choose the moniker “Morticia the Cat” for this blog. If you didn’t quite catch onto that, either I am a bad writer or you are a bad reader. And my 11th grade English teacher said I wrote real good, so… THERE.)
The Addams Family
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Starring: Anjelica Huston, Raúl Juliá, Christopher Lloyd
Writers: Charles Addams (Characters,) Caroline Thompson, Larry Wilson
Distributor: Paramount Pictures