Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 1, 2019)
A big-screen adaptation of the 1960s TV series, 1991’s The Addams Family brought a successful enterprise. Through not a huge hit, it did pretty well and also established cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld as a feature director.
25 years earlier, Gomez Addams (Raul Julia) offended his brother Fester, and the latter disappeared. Every year on this anniversary, Gomez, wife Morticia (Anjelica Huston) and the rest of their morbidly eccentric family stage a séance to attempt to reunite with Fester.
These attempts always fail, but they open the door for a scam artist to make a killing. Their accountant Tully Alford (Dan Hedaya) owes a fortune to loan shark Abigail Craven (Elizabeth Wilson) and he attempts to scrape up the needed funds from Gomez.
Tully comes up with a scheme when he meets Craven’s son Gordon (Christopher Lloyd), a thug who bears a strong resemblance to Fester. Gordon impersonates Fester and tries to wheedle his way toward the Addams fortune.
Most adaptations of TV series don’t work very well, but Family manages to overcome that curse. Darkly comic, it turns into a pretty enjoyable effort.
The producers didn't on cast, and it shows with a crew of terrific actors like Julia, Huston and Lloyd. None of these actors were then or ever became huge names, but they're solid performers whose work adds a lot of credibility to the project, and they're all very good.
I especially likeJulia's hilariously manic acting as patriarch Gomez. All at once he makes the character suave and dashing but also often displays an incredible amount of child-like glee and zest. It's a great performance.
Most notable among the actors, however, is then-young Christina Ricci as sullen and morose daughter Wednesday. This wasn't her first movie - actually, it was her third, after turns in both Mermaids and The Hard Way - but it was a breakout performance as she stole every since in which she appeared with her morbidly dark but wittily nasty tone. Her success in the role directly affected the sequel, as she receives much screen time in 1993’s Addams Family Values.
Family also is served well by the hyperkinetic directing of Barry Sonnenfeld. Sonnenfeld earned note as a cinematographer, primarily through his efforts alongside the Coen brothers.
Family was Sonnenfeld's initial directorial attempt, and he quickly establishes what would become his signature style of flashy camera movements.
For the most part, Sonnenfeld's spastic methods work well for Family because he brings a new energy to the piece. Not content to simply rehash the TV show, Sonnenfeld's high level of activity makes the movie something different and fairly exciting. Even after all these years - and similar styles in most of his other films - it still seems pretty fun here, and the movie as a whole remains witty and entertaining.