But Is It Really That Stupid: Addams Family Movies
I thought I’d try a new series of articles here, there are movies that we love even though they wouldn’t be considered great by most.
One of my all time favorites would be “The Addams Family” and “Addams Family Values”, I love them to death and have watched them since I can remember despite them being one joke movies. It’s basically “oh isn’t it funny, they’re doing a dark creepy version of a normal activity ha-ha?” A film that succeeds despite it’s very simplistic approach. Nothing major or substantial, just a fun flick to enjoy. Stupid fun… but is it really that stupid? I know I’m not alone in loving these films in particular and this franchise in general. Let’s remember The Addams Family as a franchise has existed since 1938, gone through several different types of media, and is still going strong with plans for a new reboot in the future. Something doesn’t last this long and through so many changes if there isn’t something more to it, so is there?
Let’s dive into where it all began. As stated before they first appeared in 1938, specifically as one panel comic strips in The New Yorker magazine by cartoonist Charles Addams. I looked but didn’t find much in the way of interviews from Addams himself in terms of why he created them, but they were instantly popular. As is fitting with a one panel strip it essentially features one basic joke over and over. Luckily it is a very versatile joke with a lot of different angles to explore. Though again this did take off and was popular from day one, why?
Is it the satirizing of the traditional nuclear family ideals? Very possibly though the strips existed before there was even a word for “nuclear families.” So perhaps it was a little ahead of its time (and one of the few times where it didn’t hurt them in the beginning) and why it continues to have legs to this day. When they adapted it into the famous TV series in the 60s it really took off and honestly is probably the main reason the franchise is so firmly set in mainstream popular culture. The 50s and 60s where the heyday of the nuclear family with everything trying to sell you on the idea of the ideal you should strive for, so a show that specifically poked fun at that was probably just what America was needing at the time.
So that may explain part of it, but that can’t be all of it right? Certainly nostalgia plays a bit part. They say the entire reason the movie got made was because one Orion executive started humming the TV show’s theme while in a van with some other executives and before you knew it the whole van was singing along. Also, believe it or not they did the whole movie with no intention of including the famous song and only added an orchestrated version of it at the very end of post-production. Anyway, let’s move on to the next point of why these films connect with people. I think a big part may be in the titles themselves, family. At their core that’s what the films are most certainly about. These films bleed the importance of family. The first film begins with Gomez Addams being sad and depressed about his brother Fester being missing. He can still function and act lovingly toward his family, but it’s not until Uncle Fester returns that he truly comes alive. It helps that Raul Julia was an amazing actor and when Gomez is supposed to seem sad about his brother being gone he really seems destroyed emotionally. When Fester leaves again in “Values” the new baby Pubert gets sick (which of course means he gains bright blue eyes, golden curls, rosie cheeks, smiles! “Much more and we could be talking dimples!” And if you’re getting the reference I’m making then you know it’s the actor’s delivery that makes it work so well. A quick aside about the acting, he and Angelica Huston as Morticia have some of the most believable chemistry of any cinematic married couple. And that’s only scratching the surface.
Another thing the films really advocate, and also a reason for the franchise as a whole to last so long, is the need all people have of any social standing… letting your freak flag fly. Everyone in the world needs this, and as long as it doesn’t come with the deterrent to someone else then it’s all good. Now you might be saying, “well that rules the Addams family out because they’re obviously into torture,” but again go back over those films. They never force their ways onto other people and they’re always very polite in offering others to join in with them in their “fun” unless provoked so, you know… don’t provoke them. They have a HUGE family, but they’re at all times ready to let it grow and expand and it does as the films go by. There’s also probably something to be said for everyone having a bit of a dark side. Everyone enjoying or even just needing a bit of dark humor to get through some parts of life. Now what constitutes as your freak flag varies wildly from person to person, but it’s those differences that make things interesting. The really bad things are the people who want to control that and especially in the second film it makes the case that the so-called “normal” people are even weirder than people like the Addams family. I mean just watch any of the scenes with the camp counselors and tell me you don’t feel more creeped out by them than by the actual “creepy” family. Another example of perhaps how either ahead of the time or so universal the franchise is how now with geek culture reining supreme in the mainstream. Everyone has a chance to show off their Addams-ish interests that would have made them an outsider years before.
Now all of that can’t make a film great on its own, a film with the best intentions or morals still has to be enjoyable to watch. I partly went over it before but the acting is so on point for these films, obviously there are some who will prefer John Astin and the TV cast but in my opinion all the characters are PERFECTLY cast. As in I honestly could not even imagine other actors being as good in these roles. There’s also the humor which all comedies live or die on and so it depends how funny you find them and for me, I think they’re full of great gags.
So that plus some more substantial stuff going on underneath the surface of the films and no, I don’t think the “Addams Family” movies are really all THAT stupid even though they may seem that way on first glance. And lastly because I couldn’t find another place to put this little factoid, but it’s been kicking around my head ever since learning about it while doing research for this so… did you know the pinball machine based off the first movie is the most successful pinball machine ever? Weird, huh? Like I said there wasn’t anywhere else I could fit that into this article so there it is. And now I have no segue to an actual ending so… yeah… crap, I’m no good at this. See ya next week!