I believe that we saw The Addams Family Values in a little theater in Kearns, Utah, that is no longer standing. We saw it for one of the kids' birthday, so it was in the winter time. It must have been a dollar theater, because it was all of us, seven of us, and that was a lot of people to see a movie and maybe also get popcorn. It was, as it turns out, twenty years ago almost exactly.
I remember thinking, This is hilarious! with some surprise. The first Addams Family was no big deal, in my view. We were at the second because it was nominally a family-ish film (okay, PG-13, go ahead, judge me.), and because it was a dollar, and because we were celebrating a birthday. But I was laughing. We all were.
The rhythm of the film is kind of static. The jokes had set ups, and the actors stood still to deliver them, for the most part. It's stagy. But somehow this works. Somehow, it is funnier than maybe it has a right to be. For all its static staging, it zips along, too, and all the good parts keep coming and coming. You're not counting the minutes between laughs.
One of my favorite things about any film--excellent to risible--are the little bits. Last night, we watched a swath of A Few Good Men--we generally do if we happen across it on television. By now, I have seen it so many times that I have specific bits I look forward to. I said to the historian tonight at dinner, "I just can't get enough of Tom Cruise mugging his way through those courtroom scenes. That smug expression on his face." He laughed, and cited the Jack Nicholson character calling him something derisive. And there are superb bits of dialogue that I relish when they roll by--like when Kevin Pollak's lawyer character asks Demi Moore's lawyer character why she likes the two guys they're defending, when he's just called them bullies, and she says (I like to stand up with excellent posture when I say it with her), "Because they stand on a wall, and say nothing's going to hurt you tonight, not on my watch." Brilliant and kitschy and Demi has never looked more beautiful than she does in that uniform. I live for that stuff.
I love the Addamses because they are weird and because, in this movie, they wonder (as we all do) if perhaps they should try to fit in a little more. Hence summer camp for Wednesday and Pugsley. Hence the nanny, and the ever-superb Joan Cusack playing her. There are so many delights that it is impossible to name them all, but I propose the following as one of my favorite of all monologues in movies. The misfits play the Indians to the WASPy Pilgrims in the summer camp play, written and staged by the camp director (played by Peter MacNicol):
"Years from now, my people will be forced to live in mobile homes on reservations; your people will wear cardigans and drink highballs. We will sell our bracelets by the roadside; you will play golf and enjoy hot hors d'oeuvres. My people will have pain and degradation; your people will have stick-shifts. The gods of my tribe have spoken. They have said, "Do not trust the Pilgrims, especially Sarah Miller." And for all these reasons, I have decided to scalp you and burn your village to the ground."
I hope you, the people, have a happy Thanksgiving. As for me and my people, tomorrow we will wear cardigans (no highballs) and eat hot hors d'oeuvres, though I do hope our village doesn't get burned to the ground. Yours, either.
(As researched (!) this post, I found a couple of things I recommend--this delightful article from The Guardian, and this weird and interesting feature about the making of the film from the points of view of cast and crew.) (<< value-added feature of The Megastore*.)
(*but there will be no shopping on Thanksgiving, or on the day after Thanksgiving either. We do have standards around here. Some standards.)