8 Ways Addams Family Values Is An Underappreciated Comedy Gem


This week, the 1991 movie adaptation of the classic cartoon and television series The Addams Family hit Blu-ray. Sadly, nowhere to be found is its superior sequel from 1993, Addams Family Values. With the first movie being a hit, Paramount got everyone back from the first film, including director Barry Sonnenfeld and most of the cast, for a second go round, and the results were a much funnier, far more subversive film. Comedy sequels are not only almost never as funny as their predecessors; they usually flat out suck. Addams Family Values totally bucked that trend, and made a much better movie using most of the same ingredients that went into making the first film. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that Addams Family Values is one of the funnier mainstream comedies of the 1990s…and here are eight reasons why this movie is such a wonderful (and underappreciated) gem.

1. For a “Family Comedy”, It’s Really Twisted


The Addams Family films were essentially marketed as “family movies”, and although I’m not sure there was an Addams Family Values happy meal at McDonald’s back in the day, it was the kind of movie that would have totally had one [Editor’s note: there was a maple-flavored kids cereal, and it was glorious – LYT]. Which is why I can’t believe they got away with making this movie as twisted as it was. The first twenty minutes of this film is filled with various attempts by Wednesday and Pugsley to murder their newborn brother Pubert in various horrible ways, including dropping him off the roof of the house, and also beheading him via guillotine. Awww. And that’s just for starters.

There’s also a gag where Lurch accidentally cooks a stripper alive inside a cake, references to Thing being Uncle Fester’s only sexual outlet, and numerous references to Morticia and Gomez’ super-kinky sex life. It’s all hilarious, but it’s the kind of thing Hollywood would be scared shitless of putting in a family movie these days, for fear of pissing off some Mommy bloggers or something or “scarring the precious children.” It’s a miracle they got away with it then, but I’m so glad they did.

2. It Made Fun of White Privilege Before That Was a Thing


“White Privilege” is a term we are all familiar with now, but twenty years ago, despite the hippy-dippyness of the politically correct grunge ’90s, it wasn’t quite the talking point it is now. So it’s kind of amazing how the B-plot of the movie, about Wednesday and Pugsley being sent to a summer camp filled with rich white kids (all blonde of course) – all of whom get treated like royalty while the ethnic kids and the outcasts get treated like dirt – was just way ahead of its time.

3. Joan Cusack as Debbie Jalinsky


The biggest new addition to the Addams Family cast in the sequel was Joan Cusack as baby Pubert’s new nanny, one with a secret agenda for murder and an eye on Uncle Fester’s vast fortune. Joan Cusack is one of those character actresses who always turns in a solid performance in the movies she’s in, but in my opinion, her turn as Debbie is maybe her most memorable role,or at least the role where she appears to be having the most fun. Cusack chews the scenery in a high camp tour de force, straight out of a John Waters movie from the seventies. In fact, if John Waters ever makes another movie again, he’d be wise to call up Joan Cusack and see if she can still channel some of that Debbie Jalinsky magic.

4. It Officially Recognized That Michael Jackson Was Now Terrifying


If you’re a Baby Boomer or a Gen X-er, Michael Jackson truly was the King of Pop. Seriously, if you don’t like at least one song from Off the Wall or Thriller, I probably don’t wanna know you, as you likely have no soul. As a nation, we collectively loved Michael. But then, starting around the late ’80s, Michael Jackson started to look….off. We all shrugged it off. Michael is just “a little weird” we told ourselves. Big superstars are eccentric.

By the early ’90s, though, there was no denying it: Michael looked damn freaky now. When camper Joel Glicker (David Krumholtz) is forced into the “Harmony Hut” as punishment, and sees the poster of MJ looking like a scary, pale white woman and screams, it was the first time a major pop-culture item really came out and admitted that Michael was frankly kind of terrifying now. Although the first sexual abuse allegations against Michael that really began his downward career spiral happened just a few months before the movie came out in the summer of 1993, the movie had to have been filmed significantly before that, making the filmmakers kind of like Nostradamus.

5. It’s the Family Version of Evil Dead 2


Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2 is one of the most beloved genre films of all time, and it’s essentially Raimi’s “take two” on his first movie, more than any kind of conventional sequel. Similarly, Addams Family Values is essentially a remake of the first movie, just made by the exact same cast and crew. The first Addams Family movie is also about a con artist trying to bamboozle the Addams clan for money, and the second movie follows that same basic plot. Only everything the second time around is better: the cast, the script, the direction…it all wipes the floor with the first film, but still build upon what that first film did right – namely, the amazing actors who were perfectly cast as the Addams clan and Barry Sonnenfeld’s direction.

6. Paul Rudnick’s Script

By the early nineties, novelist and playwright Paul Rudnick had already made quite a name for himself for his razor sharp wit in his theatrical plays like Jeffrey and The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, for which he won several awards and accolades. So one might think that a gig like writing Addams Family Values could have easily been a quick Hollywood paycheck for him while he did his “important work” writing for the stage and novels, and merely phoned it in for Hollywood.

But you can tell from every delicious one-liner in Addams Family Values (and there are a lot of them) that Rudnick was having the time of his life writing this, and it might be one of the funnier things he’s ever done. I’ll go on record and say that Addams Family Values is line-for-line much funnier than his more celebrated work in the Kevin Kline movie In & Out, or maybe even anything else he’s ever done.

7. Peter MacNicol and Christine Baranski as Gary & Becky Granger


We’ve all had teachers or camp counselors like these two growing up. You know the kind: the ones with the terminal chipperness that makes you want to throw up, the kind who speak in awful platitudes and daily affirmations that sound more like the advice you see on office wall cat posters than things any real human would say. (They exist now on Facebook as those people who constantly post annoying self-affirmation memes.)

Veteran character actors Peter MacNicol and Christine Baranski perfectly capture the true awfulness of people like these as Camp Chipewa’s camp counselors Gary and Becky Granger (are they married or siblings? I still don’t know). It’s almost impossible to watch Wednesday’s and Pugsley’s final act revenge on Camp Chippewa and not imagine that it were your awful guidance counselor in the place of the Grangers. It’s so much more satisfying if you do.

8.It Introduced Us to Mercedes McNabb


Technically, actress Mercedes MacNabb made her feature debut in the first Addams Family movie in a cameo as the annoying girl scout, but it’s her bigger role as camper Amanda Buckman in the sequel where she really shines. Amanda is every awful, blonde “mean girl” you ever went to school with in one awful, tiny package, and McNabb plays it brilliantly for such a young actress, showing real comedy chops. McNabb would go on to play what was essentially a slightly older version of this same character as Harmony Kendall on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, and it’s quite possible we have this movie to thank for that.

Previously by Eric Diaz:

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8 Ways Frozen Is Disney’s Gayest Animated Film Yet

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Nine Reasons a Flash TV Show Could Be Better Than a Flash Movie

The Ten Heroes Most Unworthy Of Justice League Status (Who Joined Anyway)