There’s an animated Addams Family feature coming out later this year, begging the question of why you’d bother when this 1993 sequel already got them so wrong it’s right.
Opening with Wednesday and Pugsley (Christina Ricci and Jimmy Workman) trying to kill Morticia and Gomez’s (Raúl Juliá and Anjelica Huston) new baby, Addams Family Values is named after a speech by Vice President Dan Quayle in which he blamed a breakdown of family values for the 1992 LA riots (big talk coming from someone who can’t spell ‘potato‘). This satirical vein runs deep through the movie, creating a sharper, funnier picture than its predecessor.
The plot too is better this time round because although Fester (Christopher Lloyd) forms the story’s catalyst again, the focus is sensibly shifted onto the children. The devastatingly deadpan Ricci lands the biggest laughs in a summer camp subplot that ridicules privileged America, but disappointingly doesn’t recreate Charles Addams’ “It’s the children, darling, back from camp” cartoon (right). Joan Cusack also has fun as an evil nanny (let’s call her Scary Poppins), while Barry Sonnenfeld’s direction provides plenty of detail.
Paul Rudnick’s (Sister Act) sardonic screenplay offers a more grown up sense of humour than the previous film, given the sexual nature of many of the jokes and the aforementioned attempted infanticide (along with a jarring Michael Jackson reference). It’s the perfect antidote to the kind of Disney animations that Pugsley and Wednesday are forced to watch at camp (“Stop it, he’s only a child!”), creating something Disney never managed: a superior sequel.