Incidentally, I only got a couple of episodes into Wednesday (2022 – present) before giving up. My distaste is related to the warnings given under the ratings on Netflix. I noticed that for today’s film, Addams Family Values (1993). Under the PG-13 designation, it says “Macabre humor.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines “macabre” as, “disturbing and horrifying because of involvement with or depiction of death and injury.” Catholicism is a faith of life, so you can see how the two might be at odds in a reviewer such as myself. Now, I will admit to chuckling at some of the jokes in today’s entry and its predecessor. Yet, like the one before it, there are moments that I feel cross a line, particularly when you consider how many young people watch these movies.
If you recall Morticia Addams (Anjelica Huston) announcing her pregnancy at the end of The Addams Family (1991), then the beginning of Addams Family Values will make sense. With all the assorted family members in their usual strange modes of behavior, Morticia suddenly announces that it is time to deliver her child. It turns out to be a boy, whom they name Pubert (Kristen Hooper). Having a new sibling is always a challenge for the more established children, but for Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) and Wednesday (Christina Ricci), it means murder. That is not intended as a euphemism for how awful is the adjustment period. In point of fact, they are trying to kill Pubert. Because this is the Addams, initially this behavior is taken as normal. However, even family patriarch Gomez (Raul Julia) is taken aback by some of their attempts at offing their little brother. Their solution is to hire a series of nannies, but of course all of them are frightened away by the children’s “macabre humor.” The last one to try to fill the post is Debbie Jellinsky (Joan Cusack). She comes in and overlooks the oddities around her, saying all the right things. The person she does notice is Gomez’s brother Fester (Christopher Lloyd). He is immediately taken by her beauty, but is too shy to approach her. While everyone is charmed by Debbie, the one who is not is Wednesday. Her suspicions that Debbie is up to no good are confirmed when she spies the new nanny going over Fester’s financial documents. We know her identity already as the “Black Widow,” a title given her by one of those true crime television shows she watches that details her serial gold-digging marriages that all end in the death of the husband. In order to keep Wednesday from ruining her plans, Debbie convinces Gomez and Morticia to send Pugsley and his sister to Camp Chippewa summer camp. This woodland get away is Pugsley and Wednesday’s worst nightmare. As they resolutely refuse to adjust, Debbie gets to work on Fester. When Fester admits his crush to Gomez, Gomez arranges for a double date, with Debbie going with the rest of the Addams. Later that night, Debbie gets what she is after: a marriage proposal from Fester. They are not the only budding couple. At camp, Wednesday meets the allergic to everything Joel Glicker (David Krumholtz). Like Wednesday and her brother, Joel is an outcast, not willing to participate in the happy-go-lucky activities people usually do in such settings. Because they rebel against their programming, they are forced to sit in the “Harmony Hut.” While there, they must watch the kinds of movies designed to bring out all the cheer and warmth out of a person. After an entire day of this torture, Wednesday emerges from the cabin and tells the camp counselors that she is ready to cooperate. The big ado for which they want her involvement is to be Pocahontas at the upcoming Thanksgiving pageant they are set to perform. Everything is going smoothly until Wednesday and the rest of the “savages” (their word, not mine) come onto stage. Before accepting a seat at the pilgrims’ table, Wednesday tells them that her and the rest of the native peoples are upset about what they have become in the country that was originally theirs. In response, they burn the place to the ground. There is an ulterior motive for Pugsley and Wednesday, that being to get back to their family. Following Debbie and Fester’s wedding, Fester sends a letter to each of the Addams telling them that he can never again see them. This drastic measure is at Debbie’s prompting. She is frustrated because her first try at matrimonial homicide by bathtub electrocution ends with Fester happily switching on a light bulb in his mouth. Since her husband appears harder to kill than most, she cannot have any interference from the rest of the family. Gomez, more than the others, takes this separation hard. It also manifests itself in Pubert, who turns into a giggly, golden-haired infant instead of being the spitting image of his father. They try to intervene with Debbie, but are rebuffed. Shortly thereafter, Debbie gives murdering Fester another go, this time blowing up their mansion with him inside, but still he survives. Shen then abandons all pretense of being a loving wife, pointing a gun at him and telling him she does not love him. Fester is saved by Thing (Christopher Hart), an autonomous hand, and they head back to the Addams estate. They are met by there by Pugsley and Wednesday, but are soon joined by Debbie. She manages to get them all down to the basement and strapped into electric chairs. As she is about to pull the switch, however, the family is rescued by Pubert, who has returned to, er, normal. He is able to reverse the current and see Debbie turned into ash. We close with “some time later,” and the Addams celebrating Pubert’s first birthday. Joel is Wednesday’s special guest, only for him to be nearly scared to death by her.
As I alluded to with my review of The Addams Family, Addams Family Values has moments when that “macabre humor” rides the line between innocuousness and inappropriateness, often on the latter side of that divide. This is seen when Wednesday explains to a naïve little girl how babies are actually made, when Gomez gives Pugsley a cigar, or when dad gives Pubert alcohol. These are meant to be funny, but I do not think they are necessary when you consider the impressionable audience that could be consuming these films. This is not the worst aspect, though, for this Catholic reviewer. There is a theme in this and the predecessor regarding how to love your spouse. The supposed ideal is embodied in Gomez and Morticia. Gomez is prone to proclaiming his extreme devotion for Morticia. He worships her. He would die for her. He would kill for her. He also tells Fester that this is how his brother should approach Debbie. Some of this might sound familiar to a Christian. After all, Jesus died for us. There is also something to be said about being willing to be a martyr for our fellow man, emulating Jesus in this manner. This kind of love, though, is out of phase with the slavish devotion confessed in the film. This kind of situation implies a lack of will on the part of those involved. God asks us to choose. He invites us, He does not demand. We are called to worship God, yes, but not in this overbearing sense. The love of God is meant to be our identity, but in a way that is uplifting. One does not get that sense from these films.
Again, there are some funny moments in Addams Family Values. At the same time, it is not enough for me to fully recommend it. The ratings, once more, are not good enough. I do not think this film appropriate for any but the most adult of audiences. From what I have seen of Wednesday, I would say about the same thing about it.