They’re back!!! Yes, Charles Addams’ gloriously macabre characters have returned in “Addams Family Values” and the big-screen sequel looks to be on a commercial par with its inspiration, which scared up $ 200 million at movie houses around the world.
Nonetheless, the new outing, written by Paul Rudnick and again directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, shares many of the pluses and minuses of the 1991 excursion. It remains perilously slim in the story department, but glides over the thin ice with technical razzle-dazzle and an exceptionally winning cast. Chief among its virtues is an anarchic spirit that embraces and delights in all that is politically incorrect.
The screen equivalent of a Rube Goldberg invention kicks into action as Morticia (Anjelica Huston) informs devoted hubby Gomez (Raul Julia) that they are expecting a child — right now. The new spawn, the cuddly, moustached Pubert (Kaitlyn & Kristen Hooper), immediately becomes the object of offspring Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley Addams’ (JimmyWorkman) lethal jealousy.
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So the couple try to recruit a nanny. Naturally, the candidates are horrified by their encounter with this unique household. Everyone, that is, except the nauseatingly perky Debbie Jellinsky (Joan Cusack). We soon discover that her bottomless taste for the bizarre is promoted by a desire to woo, wed , murder and abscond with hapless, lovesick Fester Addams’ (Christopher Lloyd) considerable financial assets.
When Debbie gets wind that the kids have picked up on her scheme, she devises a clever ruse to pack them off to the snobbishly elite Camp Chippewa.
The story is merely functional. It may be foolhardy to expect a film culled from cartoons and sitcom to have an organic, feature-length plot. The source material, after all, affords a seemingly limitless cache of opportunities to hold up a mirror to society and present its converse with humorous bite.
The success of the Addams family in all its incarnations is that subtle balance between normality and the outrageous. Somehowthis family unit, which embodies so many wrong values, still has as its bedrock the sanctity of hearth and home.
Huston and Julia are one of the truly magical screen couples; it is a sublime pairing of effortless grace. Their masterful deadpan sincerity makes it impossible to imagine any other combination of actors in the roles.
The cast is uniformly wonderful, with young Ricci providing a depth to her character well beyond her years. Newcomer Cusack is a lively addition, playing her black widow character as a princess with an attitude. Also notable is Peter MacNicol as the suitably loopy, vane, misguided camp leader and a raft of cameos from a rogue’s gallery that includes Nathan Lane, director Sonnenfeld and Mr. “Mission Impossible” Peter Graves.
Designer Ken Adam creates a rich, textured environment to set the scene. It is a handsome foundation for the other tech credits and such inspired wackiness as Gomez and Morticia’s wild, masochistic tango.
“Addams Family Values” rates high on the commercial tote board. It’s the kind of wickedly delicious comedy one can savor without adding the proviso of guilty pleasure.