Addams Family Reunion(TV Movie): Is It Good? Why No one Talks About It?

In a perfect world, Addams Family Values would have received the high praise and substantial box office it so richly deserved in 1993. A delightfully amusing sequel, it is 94 minutes of well-crafted comedy with a group of actors who almost define the term “ideally cast.” A comic high point of 1990s film is Christina Ricci, who is threatened by the Harmony Hut while clinging to a fence.

But the movie wasn’t all that popular. Despite being well received, it did not earn as much money at the box office as the original. It was released in the US one week before Mrs. Doubtfire, which went on to become the widely seen family comedy of the 1993 holiday season. At best, Addams Family Values would perform decently, but it would far underperform the original movie’s box office results.

Any prospect for an Addams Family 3 was consequently dashed. Then, a future Addams Family sequel seemed unimaginable with the tragic early death of Raul Julia in October 1994, at the age of just 54.

However, someone went ahead and considered it anyhow.

Plans were made for a different project since producers wanted to match the first movie’s box office success and felt the second one deserved more.

However, this one came from a different organisation and had distinct goals. The first Addams Family movie was acquired by Paramount late in production from the financially struggling Orion, and the first two Addams Family pictures were distributed by Paramount. The narrative is expanded upon here. The New Addams Family, a new television project from Warner Bros. and Saban (the Power Rangers people), was however in the works at the time. The plan was to continue the Addams Family’s adventures on television 15 to 20 years before it became the in thing (even though the Addams Family had its roots in Charles Addams’ original cartoon strips and the subsequent TV series, so in this case, it was more like “returning home”).

As a result, Warner Bros. began creating the TV movie that would eventually become Addams Family Reunion, which was meant to serve as the pilot for the new series. Additionally, it sought some consistency to carry over at least some of the positive sentiment the films had inspired in the audience. Anjelica Huston was duly contacted to return as Morticia Addams, while Christopher Lloyd was asked to play Uncle Fester. Both said no. A comeback for Wednesday and Puggsley, played by Christina Ricci and Jimmy Workman, was improbable because they had grown up. As it turned out, only Christopher Hart would help out with Thing once more, and Carel Struycken would return as Lurch (with a slightly bigger role and a love interest to boot). As Laurence Rickard noted at a recent Den of Geek event, it’s difficult to imagine Thing being realised any better than he was in the 1990s, even with today’s technology.

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Scott Sandin and Rob Kerchner were commissioned to write a script. The former had prior expertise with cinematic reboots and sequels, with his credits including Turbulence 2: Fear of Flying, Casper: A Spirited Beginning, and WarGames: The Dead Code. Dave Payne, who had just finished Alien Avengers II, was chosen to direct their Addams Family screenplay. Reeker, Payne’s mini-horror series, was in front of him.

It’s a strange movie that came out the other end of this process, one that unequivocally demonstrates that occasionally a strong cast can’t save a movie. While few people would be bold enough to wear Raul Julia’s shoes, Tim Curry’s boldness is undeniably admirable. Curry plays Gomez in a different, less slick way than Julia, which is understandable, but it’s still a somewhat more subdued Curry than you might anticipate. Although I would have preferred to see a little more of the City of Zinj-hunting man we saw in Congo, Curry is still entertaining to watch in this scene.

Darryl Hannah plays Morticia with him, filling in for Anjelica Huston without truly replacing her. She has an unpleasant job to do, which is made more challenging by her attempts to imitate Anjelica Huston’s performance. Sadly, she makes no effort to distinguish herself from the prior portrayal, and it doesn’t really help. She seems to have been constrained from the beginning. Even over two decades after its first release, you can’t help but want for Huston’s Morticia to make a return when watching Addams Family Reunion. Hannah isn’t horrible; rather, she doesn’t give the role her all. The succeeding television series would have provided her with greater room to explore it. She does not, however, have that chance in the current context of this film.

Curry and Hannah perform better than the majority of the ensemble that was recast, though. For example, Pat Thomas’ performance as Uncle Fester is best glossed over, making the character appear on screen as a one-note moron. Nicole Figuere, who is doing slightly better than Wednesday, is doing fairly well in my opinion. However, how can she compare to what came before, once more? Even so, she gives enough of herself to the role that she kept portraying Wednesday after The New Addams Family TV show was approved. Although it only lasted two seasons, it made the better decision to revive the essence of the original Addams Family TV series rather than follow in the footsteps of the ’90s films. Figuere blended in seamlessly with that group.

But returning to the Addams Family Reunion, things start to go wrong rather immediately. The movie frequently yearns to be like the classics. For instance, the opening sequence shows a postman attempting and failing to deliver letters to the Addams mansion. To be fair to director Payne, he makes a respectable effort to imitate the nimble camerawork of director Barry Sonnenfeld. However, this opening sequence of delivering letters drags on far too long, much like many other scenes in the movie. It’s also among the better times.

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In Payne’s defence, the scenes in which he is allowed to roam free and let his camera zoom around are some of the best parts of an otherwise forgettable film. Although the 1.33:1 aspect ratio does him no favours, any feeling of grandeur or richness is conspicuously lacking, and this is brought home to the audience when the movie cuts to an exterior image of a shoddy-looking Addams estate.

You don’t have to go very far to find hints that this was a TV movie, including the computer graphics title and the repeated close-ups in the middle of the frame. You find yourself looking to the story itself for something of true interest because the motions are carried out, there isn’t much in the way of panache, and there isn’t much of a sense of urgency (it’s fair to admit that the two preceding movies didn’t have particularly amazing narratives, but barely anyone noticed because they were having so much fun).

In this scenario, Gomez and Morticia are seeking a family reunion. Not so much for social reasons as an attempt to find a solution to keep Grandpa and Grandma Addams from becoming “normal.” They wonder if one of their long-lost relatives can assist. As a result, we mistakenly perceive the Addams family in the real world (a mechanic that worked astoundingly well in the first two Brady Bunch movies of the 1990s, and does not work at all here). You can’t beat a little mistaken identification! They wind up at the Adams family’s house instead, leaving Gomez and Morticia to try to locate a cure—just from the wrong folks. The setting isn’t really used for any jokes, and Ed Begley Jr., who is normally dependable, is requested to squirm around for a while to give the Addams family something to fight against.

In retrospect, it was brave of them to attempt to remove the Addams family from their natural setting, especially in light of how Addams Family Values benefited from introducing Wednesday to the “normal” world. However, Addams Family Reunion takes the easier route and prefers to prattling around to creating funny moments. Not only that it doesn’t make people laugh. It starts to grow monotonous.

A typical couple instead finds themselves at the Addams house in the B plot, where they are forced to deal with all of its horrific quirks. Again, any expectation of a Rocky Horror-style atmosphere is swiftly dashed. They mainly complain and scream, but the production design does become better.

The movie does look for humour, and there are some weird moments. Not least when you consider how hairy his arms are, Lurch the pool lifeguard is a good value. The finer points are what count. However, despite being cut a little hurriedly, the tennis match between Gomez Addams and Ed Begley Jr.’s Phillip Adams still ends on a bit of a high note. And it’s entertaining when Gomez and Morticia do get to dance together.

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There is a scene in the dance where Gomez throws Morticia into the air and catches her, though, to make a clear distinction between the old and new movies. The issue? The catch itself has been edited so poorly that it could as well be stop-frame animation with a very low frame rate. I’ve never seen a scene that was so poorly edited to hide the joining of two shots. You don’t trust me?

The closest the movie comes to having money shots is when a CG monstrosity pursues people around while yelling “cheap” at the top of its lungs. Even in 1998, this was already looking questionable.

Then there is a startling mood of meanness that occasionally overpowers the film’s typically macabre core. That doesn’t strike me as being at all Addams-like.

Sadly, especially in light of how rich the source material is, it’s difficult to come to any other conclusion than that Addams Family Reunion is a really bad movie that was done for the wrong reasons. It’s been practically forgotten by Warner Bros. Although it had a VHS release at first and occasionally appeared on TV, there is little use in attempting to convince the Warner Archive to release a Blu-ray. Like with most things that don’t go well, there are others who are trying to salvage what they can. Raul Julia, for example, is beyond Tim Curry’s reach, but Tim Curry is still Tim Curry, and no one is better at being Tim Curry than him. Some aspects of the production’s ambition and design go beyond what its beermat budget will support. The screenplay makes an effort to include those characters who have been neglected and give them more to do.

The issue? It doesn’t really work, feels flat, and doesn’t seem to capture the spirit and tenor of the Addams Family. Other than that, I adored it.

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