The Addams Family (1991) – Kinky Tim Burton Family Hour

Addams-FamilyThere once was a trend in the 90’s where old cartoon TV shows like CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST or even animated movies like 101 DALMATIANS would get a live-action adaptation. As someone who never grew up with Cartoon Network because his family preferred old movies on VHS to Cable TV (and seriously, that shit was expensive as fuck back then), I never really got why some people would get angry about the quality of a live-action take on an old cartoon. Maybe if it were like the bland GI: JOE movies of the past decade, then I could get angry at the quality of those boring piles of shit because I grew up with a dubbed version of the old 80’s GI JOE show on ABC-5 (long before it became the pandering capital of the Filipino TV scene and the Epitome of Shit television channels called TV5) where Cobra Commander’s high pitched voice was the stuff of comedic gold.

That being said, I only knew of THE ADDAMS FAMILY because my richer classmates would talk about it along with every other TV show their rich-ass cable TV could give them. What little I knew of the show is mostly based on the spoken word of friends, future internet research and the like so as someone with close to no emotional investment connected to the original license, I decided to give the 90’s live-action take on the Comedic Goth Family a shot just to see what my Slasher Movie Filled Childhood missed (which I have been doing a lot as of late; thank high heavens for the miracle that is the DVD).

Normally, when it comes to many of the movies I missed out on in my R-rated Movie Laden Childhood, I would usually say it was no big loss (like the previously reviewed JOE’S APARTMENT) but THE ADDAMS FAMILY is the rare case where I actually wished I saw this movie in my younger days. Sure it’s not perfect and as is the case with many old comedy movies, some of the jokes didn’t age so well but that doesn’t mean THE ADDAMS FAMILY is something worth giving a shot in this new decade of Excessive CGI and Superhero Blockbuster Madness.

THE ADDAMS FAMILY’s overall premise, all the random skits aside, is something (for whatever fucked up justification there was) seen in every 90’s Live-Action Adaptation of an old license and that’s the Financial Scheme. Seriously, for whatever reasons there may be, every Family Movie from the 90’s always involved the primary group of characters facing a financial crisis of sorts when some asshole “Family Friend” (like the Family Lawyer or the Estranged Aunt/Uncle) of theirs schemes to take all their fucking riches by using a plan loaded with shenanigans and outright stupidity. I have no fucking idea why Whimsical Rich-Ass Families were the center of these movies back then but I’ll just say that if their ass got robbed they sure as shit deserved it because they were too oblivious to the Obviously Evil Asshole in the background who’d openly plot and sneer in their chair during the fucking dinner time. Maybe they were too “eccentric” or to busy engaging in Stupid Whimsy Bullshit to notice but god fucking damn it, the red flags are all over the place. Don’t say they weren’t warned.

In the case of THE ADDAMS FAMILY, the central plot is pushed forward by having a con-man impersonate the family’s long lost member (and the patriarch’s missing brother) so that he could get close enough to derive the family’s secrets and the whereabouts of their massive financial fortune. As predictable as THE ADDAMS FAMILY could get since it follows the 90’s Family Movie Checklist to the fucking dot without changing much in the formula’s elements, what sets it apart is its eccentric cast of characters and the expert use of Black Humor, which is perfect considering the fact that the central characters are basically Tim Burton’s take on THE BRADY BUNCH.

The cast here may be nothing but Cartoon Characters Come To Life since they’re pretty much one-note people who barely change but this is a movie based on a fucking cartoon starring One-Note Cartoon Characters, so what the fuck were you expecting anyways. Even if their character arcs aren’t that well developed as the movie progresses and what little character development is there always has a fucking obvious ending, it was still fun watching them engage with each other in comedic banter, dialogue based or otherwise. Thanks to the fact that they obviously didn’t take the material too seriously, the cast adds a certain dash of memorable personality and comic charm to the movie, which I think was responsible for making the movie (and its sequel) a household name and a fun nostalgic watch.

While I’m pretty sure that the cartoon didn’t give a hoot about character development, I’m not sure if it had the same level of humor shown here but THE ADDAMS FAMILY movie perfectly balances the usual slapstick gags for the kids with the darker and suggestive jokes reserved for the older audiences, all hidden under so much fluff and cover. It’s one of the few Family Movies that actually takes the first word of that genre label seriously, with its healthy share of jokes for all sides of the present Age Groups. Hell, even the supposedly childish humor that relies more on visuals than snark is darker than what one would expect from a PG-13 Family Movie. Here, it’s a normal thing to see the children actively try to kill each other in outlandish ways ranging from poisons to massive bladed weapons to electric chairs while their parents engage in dialogue where everything turns them on (hello weirdly uncalled for auction scene). What’s surprising is the amount of crap the movie got away with, considering its PG-13 rating. The amount of Sexual Innuendos and the like here is fucking nuts and it’s a blast watching the characters throw suggestive punchline after punchline, knowing full-well that the actors most probably knew they were going to get away with all this bullshit with a big fucking shit eating grin on their faces.

Truth be told, there are some jokes that could be seen coming from a mile away since (again) this is still a PG-13 90’s Family Movie, others are just lame because the punchline simply relies on changing a word in an otherwise normal situation with something a kid might find scary (like living food with eyes in it, screaming the night away equates to having a good night’s sleep, kids’ games usually involve getting Medieval on each other’s asses, etc.) and there’s a couple of gags that don’t really add to much to the overall story and seem out of place but those are just minor trips in what’s essentially a Stand Up Comedy Hour, only written by guys that found Stephen King’s stories more humorous than horrifying. There WILL always be duds in a Stand-Up Comedy Hour but what matters most is the way the rest of the show is delivered, and thankfully, THE ADDAMS FAMILY does more than enough to compensate for the flat jokes and predictable events its Genre Limits confines it to.

It may have not aged perfectly as I may have hope it to but THE ADDAMS FAMILY is still a fun movie to watch. While some of its gags do fall flat and you could see the dust build up on the punchline after being ignored for some decades, THE ADDAMS FAMILY still succeeds in entertaining all sides of the Family Movie’s target audience. Despite some flaws, I’m willing to show this movie to any future children I may have not just because I’m that fucked up but because it’s that fun a movie. Just because I loved the A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise as a kid doesn’t mean I’m fucking psycho; it just shows my sense of humor is a lot more morbid than others’.

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