The Addams Family (1991)

(On DVD, July 2017) There are times when you watch an older movie and it’s so good that you wonder why you haven’t seen it before. I’ll be the first to admit that The Adams Family isn’t a perfect film: As a macabre-themed comedy, it’s not built around a plot as much as gags and atmosphere, so it’s likely to be the kind of film that you find wonderful from beginning to end … or not. As far as I’m concerned, The Adams Family hits the right buttons in the right order. From the opening credit sequence (which features a font similar to Men in Black, also directed by Barry Sonnenfeld), it’s a ride through a darkly funny imagination. But there’s more than black comedy in play here: The appeal of The Addams Family isn’t necessarily in the macabre stuff as much as the solid family unit being demonstrated through the jokes. The lustful relationship between Morticia and Gomez is straight-up #relationshipgoals idyllic, and the film show over and over again that the Addams clan can rely on itself to take care of outsiders. And while the plot is simple, there’s some structural genius in the way it brings in an outsider to show what’s happening in that family, and to allow the intruder to be captured by the family’s charm. Otherwise, the jokes aren’t always obvious and even when they are, their delivery is perfect. (I laughed far too much at “Are they made from real Girl Scouts?”) The Addams Family does have the advantage of relying on an ensemble cast of terrific actors ideally suited to their role. Anjelica Huston has a career-best role as Morticia Adams, perfectly spooky and sexy at once. Raul Julia and Christopher Lloyd both get to ham it up as brothers, while Christina Ricci got her breakout role here as Wednesday Addams. The stable of characters works well, but the production design and loopy humour is what sets this film apart. This delight-a-minute visual extravaganza may not work on everyone else equally, but as far as I’m concerned, The Addams Family is a classic that I should have seen much earlier.

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