Due to the existence of a third, straight-to-video installment, I left it to my readers on Tuesday to decide if the Addams Family franchise deserved the Sequel Suicide treatment. For those who don’t know, a Sequel Suicide occurs when a great and successful movie spawns an immediate sequel, but said sequel is a toxic thing which destroys any future hope of a sequel. I was curious if readers would qualify the realm of straight-to-video as that hopeless realm where franchises go to die or not.
None of that matters because I hereby decree The Addams Family franchise is, in fact, not a Sequel Suicide, but that it belongs in a wholly different series, Sequel Superior. This rare designation occurs when a sequel surpasses its predecessor in quality. The 1993 film, Addams Family Values, does exactly that.
Morticia (Anjelica Huston) and Gomez (Raul Julia) welcome their baby Pubert (Kaitlyn Hooper, Kristen Hooper) into the fold. Less than thrilled with their brother, Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsly (Jimmy Workman) repeatedly attempt to kill the child, leaving Gomez no choice but to hire a nanny so Morticia will have “more time to seek out the dark forces and join their hellish crusade.” The Addams clan welcomes Debbie Jellinsky (Joan Cusack) into their home where she promptly ships the kids off to summer camp and steals away their stinking, and stinking rich, Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) with her womanly wiles and homicidal tendencies.
Addams Family Values had me worried it was going to be more of the same when, in the opening moments, Thing (Christopher Hart) flies about the house atop a roller skate. Luckily, director Barry Sonnenfeld was not as “heavy-handed” as in the original and this superfluous scene pays off later. Sonnenfeld’s more experienced directing of a script penned by Paul Rudnick yields an installment that is more coherent, while still being as silly and even more darkly humorous than the original.
The introduction of a new Addams into the family, Wednesday and Pugsly suffering through the conformity of Camp Chippewa, and dear old Deb trying to marry and murder Uncle Fester feel like three separate stories, woven together by the thinnest of strands. Though Uncle Fester’s story takes prominence, combined the three clip along at a brisk pace, never squandering time. The comedic setups are still simple, but the dialogue is much sharper than in the original.
Those simplistic setups pack in huge payoffs. The creepy cheerfulness of camp counselors Gary Granger (Peter MacNicol) and Becky Martin-Granger (Christine Baranski), the snooty attitude of Amanda Buckman (Mercedes McNab), and the awkwardness of Joel Glicker (David Krumholtz) make the Camp Chippewa moments my favorite. From the heinous Harmony Hut to the delightfully depraved Thanksgiving pageant, sending Wednesday and Pugsly to summer camp was the best thing for audiences.
Cusack is wicked funny as the foul temptress, Deb. Her hatred seethes from behind her fake smile and seeing her grow increasingly frustrated with Fester’s resilience is almost as much fun as her ridiculous explanatory pre-murder slideshow.
The returning cast members attack their roles with the same level of depravity and mirth that made the first installment so enjoyable. Carol Kane takes on the role of Granny this time around, but fits in snugly amongst the conveyed madness of her costars. Their adherence to such a high standard of silliness coupled with the more laugh-packed story achieves what all parents hope for; that their offspring will be better than them.