All is not well in the Addams Family mansion, for the head of the household, Gomez (Raul Julia) is pining for his long lost brother, Fester. In spite of the efforts of Gomez's wife Morticia (Anjelica Huston) to cheer him up, he cannot help but dwell on the argument that he and his sibling had twenty-five years ago, a conflict that split them up vowing never to see each other again. However, to complicate matters the Addamses have enemies in the shape of a bunch of conniving lawyers who plan to cheat them out of their fortune, and getting Gordon (Christopher Lloyd) to pose as Fester is their scheme...
The wonderful cartoons of Charles Addams have had an influence over the fun side of the macabre for decades, and although they appeared in but a fraction of his drawings, his Addams family are what is most associated with his name. A lot of this was down to the popularity of the sixties sitcom that developed the characters, gave them names, and made them instantly recognisable both at the time and since through regular re-runs. Back then, the casting could not have been better, so it was unsurprising that some fans felt the actors in the 1991 movie were akin to impostors.
But the naysayers are dismissing them without reasonable cause, for once again the producers got the casting right. Huston rarely looked more glamorous as Morticia, and Julia captured John Astin's immense charm and morbid cheerfulness as Gomez; elsewhere, you find performers hitting the right notes, from Christina Ricci in a star-making turn as the self-possessed Wednesday to magician Christopher Hart's hand as Thing, now no longer popping up from a box on a table but speeding around the mansion like a spider. The foils, too, are ideal, as every Addams story needs a bunch of straight men (and women) to contrast with.
What is less successful is attaching all of these characters to a story, and it seems odd that they should begin with Uncle Fester outside the family and in a different guise. Elizabeth Wilson is his supposed mother, Mrs Craven, and it is she who orders "Gordon" to shave his head and pose as the long lost Addams (on TV Fester was Morticia's uncle) so as to infiltrate them and discover the site of their treasure. Gomez is delighted to see him, but "Gordon" keeps slipping up, leading Wednesday to suspect he might not be all he seems. However, he is obviously the uncle, in a twist that will shock no one, and his other life is explained away at the end as amnesia.
If there is that kind of lazy scripting in Caroline Thompson and Larry Wilson's writing (or they recognised such details didn't matter), elsewhere they get it just right, mainly in the gags. Some of these are lifted from Charles Addams originals, such as the dolls on the guillotine or the stealing of roadside warning signs, and in a nice touch the teaser trailer recreated a classic cartoon set in a cinema, showing a welcome respect for their creator. What is most pleasing is that gleeful subversion, both from the drawings and the sitcom, which illustrates the Addamses are far more well balanced and well adjusted in themselves than any of the uptight squares who revile them, with Gomez and Morticia one of the few truly passionate couples in fiction whose love you know will never fade away. In Addams' world, most everyone else dreamed of killing their spouse or committing suicide, but by embracing their dark side the family remained curiously wholesome, and into this Fester finally finds somewhere to belong. It is this acceptance of the weird and rejection of the staid and conventional that gives this recreation its considerable warmth. Music by Marc Shaiman.