The Addams Family (1991 film)
|The Addams Family|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Barry Sonnenfeld|
|Produced by||Scott Rudin|
The Addams Family|
by Charles Addams
|Music by||Marc Shaiman|
|Edited by||Dede Allen|
|Box office||$191.5 million|
The Addams Family is a 1991 American supernatural black comedy film based on the characters from the cartoon created by cartoonist Charles Addams and the 1964 TV series produced by David Levy. Directed by former cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld in his screen directing debut, the film stars Anjelica Huston, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance as Morticia Addams, Raúl Juliá as Gomez Addams, Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams, and Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester. The film focuses on a bizarre, macabre, aristocratic family who reconnect with who they believe to be a long-lost relative, Gomez's brother, Fester Addams, who is actually the adopted son of a con artist intending to swindle the Addams clan out of their vast wealth and fortune.
The film was noted for its troubled production; originally developed at Orion, the film went $5 million over budget due to constant rewrites throughout shooting; health problems of people involved in the filming and an overall stressful filming for Sonnenfeld himself, caused multiple delays. The rise in production costs from the film's $25 million budget to $30 million led Orion, fearful of another big-budget flop and financially struggling, to sell the film to Paramount, who completed the film and handled the film's domestic distribution, while Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer distributed the film internationally. While the film received mixed reviews, The Addams Family was commercially successful, making back several times its production costs, and was followed by a sequel, Addams Family Values, two years later.
Gomez Addams laments the 25-year absence of his brother Fester, who disappeared after the two had a falling-out. Gomez's lawyer Tully Alford owes money to loan shark and con artist Abigail Craven, and notices that her adopted son Gordon closely resembles Fester. Tully proposes that Gordon pose as Fester to infiltrate the Addams household and find the hidden vault where they keep their vast riches. Tully and his wife Margaret attend a séance at the Addams home led by Grandmama in which the family tries to contact Fester's spirit. Gordon arrives, posing as Fester, while Abigail poses as a German psychiatrist named Dr. Greta Pinder-Schloss and tells the family that Fester had been lost in the Bermuda Triangle for the past 25 years.
Gomez, overjoyed to have Fester back, takes him to the family vault to view home movies from their childhood. Gordon learns the reason for the brothers' falling-out: Gomez was jealous of Fester's success with women, and wooed the conjoined twins Flora and Fauna Amor away from him out of envy. Gomez starts to suspect that "Fester" is an impostor when he is unable to recall important details about their past. Gordon attempts to return to the vault, but is unable to get past a booby trap. Gomez's wife Morticia reminds "Fester" of the importance of family among the Addamses and of their vengeance against those who cross them. Fearing that the family is getting wise to their con, Abigail (under the guise of Dr. Pinder-Schloss) convinces Gomez that his suspicions are due to displacement.
Gordon grows closer to the Addams family, particularly the children Wednesday and Pugsley, whom he helps to prepare a swordplay sequence for a school play. The Addamses throw a large party with their extended family and friends to celebrate Fester's return, during which Abigail plans to break into the vault. Wednesday overhears Abigail and Gordon discussing their scheme, and escapes them by hiding in the family cemetery. Tully learns that Fester, as the eldest brother, is the executor of the Addams estate and therefore technically owns the entire property. With the help of the Addamses' neighbor Judge George Womack, who Gomez has repeatedly angered by hitting golf balls into his house, Tully procures a restraining order against the family, banning them from the estate. Gomez attempts to fight the order in court, but Judge Womack rules against him out of spite.
While Abigail, Gordon, and Tully try repeatedly and unsuccessfully to get past the booby trap blocking access to the vault, the Addams family is forced to move into a motel and find jobs. Morticia tries her hand as a preschool teacher, Wednesday and Pugsley sell toxic lemonade, and Thing—the family's animate disembodied hand—becomes a courier. Gomez, despondent, sinks into depression and lethargy.
Morticia returns to the Addams home to confront Fester and is captured by Abigail and Tully, who torture her in an attempt to learn how to access the vault. Thing observes this and informs Gomez using Morse code, who gathers the family and rushes to Morticia's rescue. Abigail threatens Morticia's life if Gomez does not surrender the family fortune. Fed up with his mother's behavior and constant berating, Gordon turns against Abigail. Using a magical book which projects its contents into reality, he unleashes a hurricane in the house, which strikes his own head with lightning and launches Tully and Abigail out of a window and into open graves dug for them by Wednesday and Pugsley.
Gordon turns out to actually have been Fester all along, having suffered amnesia after being lost in the Bermuda Triangle and turning up in Miami, where Abigail had taken him in. The lightning strike has restored his memory and he is enthusiastically welcomed back into the Addams household on Halloween. With the family whole again, Morticia informs Gomez that she is pregnant.
- Anjelica Huston as Morticia Addams
- Raúl Juliá as Gomez Addams
- Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester Addams
- Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams
- Jimmy Workman as Pugsley Addams
- Tony Azito as Digit Addams
- Judith Malina as Grandmama
- Carel Struycken as Lurch
- Christopher Hart's hand as Thing
- Elizabeth Wilson as Abigail Craven
- Dan Hedaya as Tully Alford
- Dana Ivey as Margaret Alford / Margaret Addams
- Paul Benedict as Judge George Womack
- John Franklin as Cousin Itt
- Mercedes McNab as Girl Scout
- Sally Jessy Raphael as Herself
Scott Rudin, a development executive at 20th Century Fox, pitched to the studio an adaptation of Charles Addams' The Addams Family comic strips, and the studio enthusiastically agreed that the comics would make a good film, and set out to purchase the rights. However, Fox would ultimately not make the film, as Orion Pictures, who owned the film rights to The Addams Family, would not sell the property, as they were planning on producing a rebooted TV series. Further crucial property rights were owned by Charles Addams' widow.
Another difficulty in getting the film produced was the obscurity of The Addams Family 1964 TV series, as the show had not achieved the syndicated popularity of the similarly-toned comedy The Munsters.
Anjelica Huston said she based aspects of her performance on her friend Jerry Hall to give the character more warmth. Huston said she would have expected the role to go to Cher but was a longtime fan of Morticia.
Caroline Thompson and Larry Wilson wrote the first draft of the screenplay, which was extensively rewritten later by other writers, including Paul Rudnick, who later wrote Addams Family Values.
In a 2012 interview, Sonnenfeld stated that he originally intended that it be unclear whether Fester really was an imposter or not, but all the other actors rebelled and chose 10-year-old Christina Ricci to speak on their behalf, who "gave this really impassioned plea that Fester shouldn't be an imposter.... so we ended up totally changing that plot point to make the actors happy. And they were right — it was the better way to go."
After Tim Burton passed on directing the film, Barry Sonnenfeld took the job. His first directing job after previously serving as director of photography for several major films, Sonnenfeld experienced much stress during filming.
In the last three months of production, director of photography Owen Roizman quit, and was replaced by Gale Tattersall. Filming resumed, but within weeks Tattersall was rushed to the hospital, halting production while Sonnenfeld took over cinematography, while simultaneously directing the film.
Further delays occurred when a blood vessel in actor Raul Julia's eye burst, leading the production to film around Julia until he recovered, and Sonnenfeld's wife became sick, halting production.
Another production difficulty was the financial decline of original production studio Orion Pictures, who, while having recently made the big hits The Silence of the Lambs and Dances with Wolves, had also produced several major flops which ate up the studios' funds, leading Orion to sell The Addams Family, while still in production, to Paramount Pictures.
Part of Orion's motivation to sell the film was that the film, originally budgeted at $25 million, had gone $5 million over budget due to newly added material as a result of the film's numerous rewrites. With the projected release date competing with Steven Spielberg's Hook, Orion feared that The Addams Family would be another expensive flop, and decided to cut its losses. Ultimately, The Addams Family was not only a nationwide hit, but it performed significantly better than Hook at the box office.
The film was further shaped by test screenings. The Mamushka sequence, a musical dance number, was significantly longer in the original cut, but was shortened following negative responses from test audiences.
While the film was being prepared for release, Paramount learned that Orion did not own the international release rights for The Addams Family, which were owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. As a result, the two studios entered into an agreement where MGM would release the film internationally, while Paramount released it domestically.
However, another obstacle in releasing the film occurred when, as the studios prepared the film for release, David Levy, the producer of the 1964 Addams Family TV series, filed a lawsuit against Paramount Pictures, claiming that the film infringed on his property rights. The suit was eventually settled out of court, after the film's release, due to Paramount wanting to quickly film a sequel due to the film's success.
While The Addams Family was a box office hit, it received mixed reviews. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film received an approval rating of 63% based on 40 reviews, with an average rating of 5.7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The movie is peppered with amusing sight gags and one-liners, but the disjointed script doesn't cohere into a successful whole." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 57 out of 100 based on 19 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Roger Ebert gave the film 2 out of 4 stars, saying it was mildly entertaining but did not add up to much. Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader called the film a "collection of one-liners and not much more". Variety magazine wrote, "Despite inspired casting and nifty visual trappings, the eagerly awaited Addams Family figures a major disappointment."
The Addams Family was awarded Best Horror Film of the Year in 1991 by the Horror Hall of Fame. Carel Struycken appeared at the award ceremony to receive the award on behalf of the cast. Huston was nominated for the 1992 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for her performance as Morticia. Additionally, the pinball machine based on the film is the best-selling and the highest produced pinball machine of all time. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for achievement in costume design. The film won a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song for the song "Addams Groove" by MC Hammer.
The distribution deal with MGM resulted in legal issues which affected the home video releases of the film; in 2014, Den of Geek reported that the ownership issues surrounding the film were not fully sorted out until 2013.
In 1993, McDonald's sold low-cost, exclusive VHS editions of The Addams Family and Wayne's World to coincide with the theatrical releases of Addams Family Values and Wayne's World 2, as part of an exclusive distribution deal with Paramount Home Entertainment.
Paramount Home Entertainment released the film on DVD in 2000; this release contained only two trailers as bonus features. The movie was reissued in a double feature with Addams Family Values in 2006. On September 9, 2014, Warner Home Video released the film on Blu-Ray.
In other media
A game based on the film was released for various handheld and home computer platforms.
The Addams Family pinball machine was a commercial arcade pinball machine made by Bally/Williams and was released in March 1992. It became the best selling pinball machine of all time, with more than 20,000 units sold.
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