TV & Movie review: The Addams Family

The Addams Family

TV show: The Addams Family (1964-1966)
Movies: The Addams Family (1991) & The Addams Family Values (1993)
Summary: The Addams Family is a group of fictional characters created by American cartoonist Charles Addams. The Addams Family characters have traditionally included Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Lurch, Grandmama, Wednesday, Pugsley and Thing.
The Addamses are a satirical inversion of the ideal American family; an eccentric, wealthy clan who delight in the macabre and are unaware, or do not care, that other people find them bizarre or frightening. (Wikipedia)

The other day I was reading a blog post on TheMarySue, citing Morticia Addams as an “inspirational woman”, and it reminded me how much I’d loved the two early-90s movies as a young teen. So I re-watched both of them yesterday and was glad to see that they hold up really well (and not just because black never goes out of style *g*). Immediately after, I got my hands on the 1960s tv show, because I needed more of this wonderfully kooky family, and despite the almost 30 years between the two properties, they feel very much of a form.

The Addamses are everything the typical tv family isn’t – they’re unapologetically (and delightfully) weird, conforming to nothing but their own standards and inclinations and having lots of fun with it. They’re also tight-knit and loving, featuring a married couple who are completely devoted and madly in love. Morticia and Gomez are also very supportive of the rest of their family, most of all their children, allowing them to express themselves in whatever way they want (although they tend to get worried if they develop likings for outdoor sports and other strange activities other people might consider “wholesome”). When I was 13 I very much wished to be like Wednesday – not so much the goth-style and morbid hobbies, but the way she was so very much herself, unaffected by peer and societal pressures.

It’s all rather refreshing, as well as totally hilarious. The Addamses work because they’re completely oblivious to the own uniqueness, making the audience laugh with them when they encounter hapless members of the public. And because their characterization is always consistently off-center, it only requires one initial suspension of disbelief. They’re the heroes of their own story, and we’re completely on their side.

In the tv show we get to see the Addams family live their everyday lives, while the movies tell of exciting events (a family impostor and a murdering gold-digger, respectively), as fits the format. Both feel very much of a piece, however, not only because of the characters but also design-wise, despite the obviously much higher production values of the movies. The look might be sleeker and grander, but the core is the same mix of morbid cozyness and goth styling. Even the humour isn’t all that much tamer in the 1960s version, although there’s naturally less violence – the only thing that really dates the show is the laugh track. (Especially in the very first episode, later it thankfully gets easier to tune out.)

The actors in both versions are very good, bringing the bizarre characters to life by embracing them, bizarre quirks and all, although Christina Ricci gets to shine as Wednesday, especially in Addams Family Values. Both Morticias, as portrayed by Carolyn Jones and Angelica Huston, are amazing as both heart and head of the family.

And having said all that, I dare you not to hum the theme song… 🙂

Wonderfully kooky
  • The Addams Family (1964-1966)
  • The Addams Family (1991 & 1993)
3.9

Summary

The Addams Family has existed in various media forms since the late 1930s, but I’ve pretty much only seen the movies with Angelica Huston and the black-and-white tv show with Carolyn Jones. And both properties are glorious! The characters are wonderfully off-beat, the humour is macabre, and it’s amazing how little needed to be updated from the 1960s to the early 1990s. As a bunch of morbid weirdoes, the Addamses should be caricatures – instead they’re utterly endearing, one of the best examples of a tight-knit, happy family in pop culture. They’re also a rather great example of the joys of simply being yourself, not dictated to by societal norms. But most of all, they’re simply very, very funny.