Addams Family Values
The sequel to Barry Sonnenfield's popular original, Addams Family Values comes to DVD courtesy of Paramount. Like the original, Paramount has released only a standard issue disc with just two theatrical trailers as supplements.
Picking up several months after the original Morticia Addams (Anjelica Huston) is pregnant and soon gives birth to another bundle of joy, or disaster depending on what side of the Addam's family you're on. Gomez (Raul Julia) names the newborn Pubert and he, Morticia, Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) and Grandma (Carol Kane) are excited about the child. However, the new baby introduces some problems for the Addam's Family household. The children Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) resent the new baby and try repeatedly to kill the newborn with little success. When Gomez inquires "Children why do you hate the baby?", Wednesday and Pugsley respond "we don't hate the baby we just want to play with him, especially his head". Thus Gomez and Morticia think it best to higher a Nanny to watch over the children.
After the first few Nannies get frightened off by Wednesday and Pugsley's less than normal behavior, a new nanny, Ms. Debbie Jellinsky (Joan Cusack), arrives at the Addams Estate. She seems full of love and cares about the children, but soon Debbie's true colors are revealed. Seems she's a "Black Widow" who likes to marry rich men and then murder them while taking off with their money. Now her new target is none other than Uncle Fester! When Debbie fears the children are getting too close to discovering her plans she convinces Gomez and Morticia into thinking they want to go to summer camp. With Wednesday and Pugsley out of the way Debbie makes a play on Uncle Fester who immediately agrees to marry her.
Meanwhile at camp Wednesday and Pugsley have trouble fitting in with the other children and are concerned for their uncle who's a sitting target for the Black Widow. Trapped in the throws of passion Uncle Fester is oblivious to Debbie's true intentions. Poor Debbie thinks she's got it made and that Fester will be an easy kill...she's obviously not familiar with the Addams family.
I love the Addam's Family and have been a big fan of the original TV series (on video of course). When the creepy and kooky family made it into a major motion picture in 1994 I was excited to see it and I think they adapted well to the big screen. Three years later an inevitable sequel was made and of course like most sequels it doesn't quite live up to the original. In a film like Addam's Family Values the cast and crew get the opportunity to build on what was established in the original. We get to see more of the characters develop as they are placed in new situations. Unfortunatley this is where the sequel disappoints since much of the film and the laughs are retread of the original. Even the plot is very similar to the original and features Uncle Fester on yet another odyssey in which he abandons his family only to return at the end. To me the story was way too similar in theme.
One bright spot is that more focus and screentime is given to Christina Ricci and if you've read my review for the original you know my feelings about her acting. Ricci once again plays Wednesday the Addam's Family's little girl who's not so little anymore when compared with the original. The other performances are great, but again are not as good as the original. It seems like a spark is missing from the performances of the main cast that was present in the original that really made them click. The performances are still good but next to the original they don't measure up IMO. The dark humor of The Addam's Family is what gives the sequel as well as the original its charm and that it succeeds at. As I mentioned before the film just felt like more of the same without any standout or inspired scenes. To Addams family fans like myself that's fine but for casual fans looking for something new and different they will likely be disappointed.
Paramount presents Addams Family Values widescreen at 1.85:1 in a 16x9 enhanced transfer. The transfer, while pleasing, is surprisingly not as good as the image on the original The Addams Family DVD. The transfer is overall nice and clean but some grain is visible in some shots and I also noticed the smoke near the end of the film (after "Debbie's House" explodes) flowed chunky and unevenly. The print used for this transfer was in good condition but not pristine. Some occasional specks and blips pop up, but they didn't at all distract me. I also found the overall image softer than that of the original, which I felt, was sharper and better defined.
Sadly I have more complaints, I found the transfer to be a bit on the dark side as well. I realize Addams Family Values like the original was shot and intended to be a dark film, but the transfer here is a little TOO dark almost to the point of obscuring character's facial features even in daylight scenes. These quibbles aside Addams Family Values looks good, but the fact The Addams Family (a film 3 years older than Values) looks better than this sequel leaves me scratching my head in puzzlement.
Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Addams Family Values like the original DVD sounds terrific. The front speakers have a nice wide depth of field and the split surrounds have excellent separation. The score, which fans of the original should be familiar with, sounds great and I didn't detect any distortion or dropouts. Dialogue also remained clear.
Paramount only provides us with two theatrical trailers, both of good quality. In the trailers we occasionally see what appears to be bits of scenes that were cut or edited out so there must be more footage to the film. Hopefully one day the original Addam's Family and the sequel will get Special Edition releases.
Fans of the original should definitely give Adams Family Values a try. Some of the joke's novelty has worn off after the original, but the film still manages to keep you laughing. Paramount's pricing is still a little high for movie only DVDs, but they are one of the few big studios that provide 16x9 enhanced transfers on a consistent basis
Image Quality - B+
Sound - A
Supplements - C+
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