Picking up from the end stinger of “The Addams Family”, “Addams Family Values” sets out to expand the Addams clan with the addition of a new baby and all that a new arrival entails, with a suitably impious twist, of course.
After several of Wednesday and Pugsley’s failed attempts to murder the new baby, Gomez (Raul Julia) and Morticia (Anjelica Huston) hire a nanny, Debbie Jellinsky (Joan Cusack), to take care of their newborn son. Unbeknownst to them, Debbie is a serial killer who marries rich bachelors and murders them to collect their inheritances and she has set her sights on Fester (Christopher Lloyd).
Darker and more twisted than its predecessor, “Addams Family Values” sets out to play to its cast’s strengths. In Debbie, the Addams clan meets someone who should fit in perfectly – as Morticia knowingly points out in the finale – but in the Addams, Debbie meets a family who are frustratingly robust in the face of her machinations.
Joan Cusack brings a wonderfully fractured devilishness to the role of Debbie and the film provides tremendous fun comparing the sensuality of Morticia and Gomez against the clumsy ineptitude of Fester’s courtship of Debbie. Meanwhile, the foisting of the Addams children onto summer camp is an inspired move, giving Christina Ricci’s Wednesday Addams far more to say and do although it’s very much at the expense of Pugsley who’s formally reduced to the role of sidekick with the introduction of David Krumholtz as Joel Glicker, Wednesday’s love not-hate interest.
There are also fantastic turns from Peter MacNicol, Christine Baranski and Mercedes McNab as the Camp Counselors and the Camp Counselor’s pet respectively, providing the perfect privileged foil for Wednesday and her gang of misfits to rail against.
Although less commercially successful, for me “Addams Family Values” is the stronger of the movies. Consistently cleverer, darker and funnier, it may be more of an acquired taste – which would explain its lacklustre box office – than the more accessible kooky sitcom antics of the first movie but there’s a gleefully pitch-black satire nestling at the heart of this spooky family comedy and with a cast this good the whole thing is just so irresistibly wicked.