The Addams Family (1991)

The Addams family are a bunch of creeps, goths, freaks, and misfits. Merry makers of mayhem but also a paragon of suburban goals: a husband who adores his wife, a father who dotes on his children, a mother-in-law’s presences embraced and appreciated, children allowed to test the boundaries of their identity, given the space to think deeply and creatively, inventing games and new forms of play. There are few such tight-knit, loving nuclear families depicted on screen today.

Still, the Addams family isn’t quite normal. Mother Morticia (Anjelica Huston) has a sickly pallor and father Gomez (Raul Julia) an obsession with seances. Daughter Wednesday (Christina Ricci) has devised a game called “Is there a god?” and brother Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) allows himself to be electrocuted in its name. The family is attended to by a grunting butler named Lurch (Carel Struycken) and a detached hand. Their fondness for the macabre, and for weaponry in particular, might intimidate most guests, but longtime lawyer Tully (Dan Hedaya) is quite used to their eccentricities, and Gomez’s grief over a 25-year estrangement with brother Fester has left him vulnerable in a way that makes the financially strapped lawyer’s eyes glisten. He enlists an imposter to pose as Fester (Christopher Lloyd) in order to claim the family’s fortune.

Cher wanted the role of Morticia and Kim Basinger briefly had it, but it was Anjelica Huston who had to suffer through the transformation. To give her eyes the signature slant, make-up artists attached strings with spirit gum to the outside corners of her eyes, tugging them to give them a lift, and anchoring the strings to her head. If you think that sounds painful, it’s only because you haven’t yet heard about the metal corset that gave her figure that very structured look. A restrictive dress gives her walk the wiggle. And some neck lifts and long fake nails and you’re almost there.

Meanwhile, I think my favourite performance comes from a very young Christina Ricci, who has to be one of the world’s most consistently good child actors, serving up many iconic roles before she even hit puberty.

The family is unfortunately a little failed by the script, which never quite works as well as it should. But the happy news is, we’re soon to have another dose of our favourite spooky family, in theatres this weekend – an animated version with Oscar Isaac as Gomez, Charlize Theron as Morticia, Chloe Grace Moretz as Wednesday, Finn Wolfhard as Pugsley, Nick Kroll as Fester, Snoop Dogg as It, and more. Lots more. Can’t wait.

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11 thoughts on “The Addams Family (1991)

  1. Birgit

    i love Angelica Huston who went through Lon Chaney pain to do this role. I have to say she looked quite good as Carolyn Jones’s Morticia. I love Raul Julia and miss him to this day. You are right about Christina Ricci who is even better in the 2nd film. My hubby wants to see the animated film. How I wish they would do The Munsters who were my favourite ghouls

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  2. Christopher

    Learning about Anjelica Huston’s makeup just makes her performance even more impressive. Of course the whole cast was great if, unfortunately, the whole thing comes across as a lot of great set pieces that never quite come together. I do like how well they fit in several Charles Addams cartoons, but, given the source material, maybe it will work better as a cartoon.
    All else aside, though, this film has the best director cameo ever.

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