Best Movie Ever?: “Addams Family Values”

There are no great Thanksgiving movies. Pieces of April was OK? I like the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special fine? I guess.

Yep. Zero.

Luckily, other Thanksgiving movies don’t even matter, because the only one that deserves our respect is Addams Family Values. It’s not about Pilgrims, Squanto, or the digestive endurance of maize, but it is about Wednesday Addams (Christina Ricci), her horrifying stay at the Chippewa Falls summer camp, and her starring role in the camp’s play, “The First Thanksgiving” as Pocahontas. Yes, Pocahontas is at this Thanksgiving. The political incorrectness is life-affirming.

Addams Family Values is a sequel to The Addams Family, the Barry Sonnenfeld feature film spun off from the Charles Addams comic strip and ’60s TV series. The creepy, kooky, mysterious, ooky family is much funnier in its ’90s incarnation, as veteran stars Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston, Christopher Lloyd, Carol Kane, and Christina Ricci fill in the classic roles and add splintering sass and morbidity to the quaint franchise. Addams Family Values is insanely re-watchable, funnier than it has any right to be, and I am seriously (seriously!) crunched over in choked laughter from revisiting screenwriter Paul Rudnick‘s killer one-liners. Did I say killer? I meant “acquitted.”

Here are five other supreme reasons Addams Family Values may be the Best Movie Ever!

1. The world may not recover from the wedded bliss (er, agony?) of Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston.

In the history of casting, has there ever been a more perfect fit than Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston as Gomez and Morticia Addams? From Julia’s saucy joie de vivre to Huston’s deadpan morbidity, there couldn’t be a more alarmingly correct pairing. John Astin and Carolyn Jones? Who are they again?

Note in this electric dance sequence Julia’s commedia dell’Arte mugging and mischievous sneers. Note the Kabuki explosion of Anjelica Huston’s makeup. Note her darkness. Note her light. The chemistry between the two actors is a farce, but real.

Also: Both Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston have sinister-looking “j”s in their name, which I’ve decided is appropriate for these characters. Sinisterness!

2. There are more one-liners than a Dorothy Parker/
Fran Lebowitz rap battle.

Who can pick favorite barbs in this flick? I can’t, and there’s a good reason why: This movie was written by terrific gay writer Paul Rudnick, and the slickness of his quips combines the world-weary cynicism of Daria with the abject hamminess of Clue. Regarding new baby Pubert, Gomez notes, “He has my father’s eyes!” Morticia replies, “Gomez, take those out of his mouth.” Why does Wednesday Addams hate the play she’s been cast in? She tells camp counselor Gary Granger, “Your work is puerile and under-dramatized. You lack any sense of structure, character and the Aristotelian unities.” Oh! And perhaps my favorite: Gomez to Morticia, as she gives birth and relishes the excruciating pain of it all, “Are you in unbearable pain? Is it inhuman? My darling, is it torture?” Her reply: “Oui.”

3. Christina Ricci is the world-weariest preteen of all time.

You have to give it up to a 12-year-old actress who can make every wicked line of dialogue feel like a shiv to the stomach. As Wednesday Addams, Christina Ricci speaks entirely in italics. And it is fire. After she and her brother Pugsley are shipped off to summer camp thanks to the schemes of a nefarious new woman in Uncle Fester’s life, she finds a new rival in the odiously WASP-y Amanda. “Is that a bathing suit?” Amanda snarks at Wednesday, noting the dourness of her swimming wardrobe. “Is that your overbite?” Wednesday replies.

God. God! To steal a sentiment from Salt-N-Pepa, Wednesday Addams is hot, cool, and vicious. The level of detachment in her delivery is beyond deathly — she’s like an Exile in Guyville bonus track set in Transylvania. But in her coldness, there’s also a distinct vulnerability. A “Well, who cares, here’s the honest truth, whether it’s scathing to me or not” straightforwardness. When she kisses her asthmatic new buddy at camp, you feel like you’ve taken a leap with her that isn’t maudlin. Wednesday is always emotional; she simply spares no emotion when uttering a punchline.


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