Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 7, 2019)
At no point did 1991’s Addams Family become a massive hit, but it still did pretty well at the box office. Its $113 million in the US allowed it to come in seventh place for the year, just a smidgen behind the much more hyped potential blockbuster Hook.
Audiences took much less interest in the inevitable sequel, 1993’s Addams Family Values. With a US take of only $48 million, it fell far short of the first movie’s gross, a factor that accounts for the fact we didn’t get a third film.
In Values, Morticia Addams (Anjelica Huston) gives birth to baby Pubert (Kaitlyn and Kristen Hooper). While father Gomez (Raul Julia) embraces his third child, siblings Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) feel threatened by the toddler and attempt to kill him.
To help, Gomez and Morticia bring in Debbie Jellinsky (Joan Cusack) as a nanny. However, it turns out “Debbie” is really a notorious serial killer who woos wealthy men and murders them for their money.
Debbie chooses the Addams clan to target Gomez’s brother Fester (Christopher Lloyd). Lonely and eager for love, Fester immediately falls for Debbie, an impulse that threatens to haunt him due to her desire to kill him.
While Values boasts some entertaining moments, it generally offers a pale imitation of the first film. All the same components appear, but a certain spirit seems lacking.
Director Barry Sonnenfeld's camera flies all around us, but it appears even more flashy and insubstantive than during the original movie. As a result, you get that serious "been there, done that" feeling during the sequel.
Most of the actors don’t live up to their old standards as well. All seem more subdued this time around, and Julia appears much less animated and exciting than in the first film. He was such a delight in the prior flick, whereas here he lacks verve.
Huston didn't have to exert much energy in the first place, but even she looks a bit worn and bored with the proceedings. One saving grace comes from another great performance by Ricci, and her added prominence in the sequel almost single-handedly rescues the film.
Ricci takes a slightly tired conceit - a humorless character who tries to smile – and makes it a thing of wonder. That scene becomes the highlight of the entire picture.
Other than that, there's not much positive to say. Actually, the supporting cast offers a bit of a step up from the first film.
For reasons unknown, Carol Kane replaces Judith Malina as Grandma. She's no better in this very minor role, but hey - at least she's a “name”!
Peter MacNicol and Christine Baransky play prominent supporting roles, and Nathan Lane, David Hyde Pierce, and Tony Shalhoub also turn up in bit parts as well. It’s fun to see them, even if none of them can rescue the movie.
I also find it interesting to note that young Mercedes McNab appears in both films, though it's unclear if she's supposed to play the same part. She gets a bigger role as insufferable Amanda here, and she played the insufferable Girl Scout in the first movie.
These are the kinds of things you consider when you're sort of bored with a movie. Don't get me wrong: Values doesn’t offer a terrible film.
However, it's not very good, and I can't help but find it to be a letdown after the semi-inspired original movie. Maybe I'd like it more if I hadn't viewed them both back-to-back, but as it stands, Values becomes a fairly mediocre effort.