Good sequels are rare these days. A good sequel should take what was good in the first movie and attempt to improve or expand on it. This sequel to The Addams Family does that really well. The most entertaining part of the original was when the Addams family had to interact with the outside world. Sure, they were fun in their own kooky environment, but there is real comedic value to be had when this strange family has to venture out into the real world. The fact they’re completely oblivious to how the outside world sees them makes it even funnier.
The sequel also gives more screen time to one of the under utilised characters in the original. Wednesday Addams is brilliant with her brother Pugsley and the antics they get up too. Firstly, they’re dealing with a new sibling and the jealousy that comes with it. Then they are sent to a sunny summer camp because they’re getting in the way of Joan Cusack’s attempts to swindle Uncle Fester and the Addams fortune. Seeing Christina Ricci deal with her fellow campers and eventually experience her first love is one of the highlights of the film. The kids deal with problems all adolescents face (young love, bullying and sibling rivalry) and it’s really interesting to see their dark Addams family solutions to these problems.
The bigger budget is used well for this sequel as it’s clear the production values, makeup and special effects have improved. Joan Cusack’s is a great addition to the cast as a psychotic nanny who tries to woo Fester, before turning him against his family. This is possibly a better movie than the original, I really enjoyed it. There were plans for a third installment, but they were scrapped after Raul Julia’s unfortunate passing in 1994. This was the right call, I really can’t imagine anybody else playing Gomez.
Sequels* are a weird type of movie. They are familiar, and yet, something is slightly off. The production value is always better (assuming we’re talking about theatrical releases and not straight to DVD garbage), and as a result the sequel can sometimes feel like a different movie than the original. Everything is bigger, glossier, more over the top. Often the writers have changed. A new director is brought in. Changes are made to appeal to a broader audience. It can still be good, but sequels just feel different.
Addams Family Values is not that kind of sequel. Everything that worked so well in the original is replicated to great effect here. I’m sure more money was spent on things like the sets and costumes, but you can’t tell. And I mean that in a good way. This really does look and feel like a direct continuation of The Addams Family.
In fact, I’m hard pressed to pick a favorite at this point. There are hilarious jokes and visual gags in both, and I found myself laughing just as hard through each film. The jokes are maybe a bit more macabre this time around, but most are offset by adorable baby Pubert, so who would mind?
And can we please discuss the brilliance of Wednesday and Pugsley sabotaging their summer camp Thanksgiving musical? The satire is perfectly crafted, and sadly still relevant to how many Americans view the holiday today. We too should all burn Thanksgiving misconceptions to the ground, because there are so many, and they are doing the holiday a great disservice. We too should celebrate what makes us unique, instead of forcing our own values on others. It’s OK to be a peppy camp counselor, but it’s just as OK to be a nerd who collects murderer trading cards. Embrace the kooky, people!
*I don’t include movies that were written to be part of a multi-movie franchise as sequels, in this sense. A real effort is made to create consistency between these films, where as movies that spawn “spontaneous” sequels often up the ante the second time around.