Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Turkey Thoughts ‘14—Addams Family Values (1993) ***

PG-13, 94 min.
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Writers: Paul Rudnick, Charles Addams (characters)
Starring: Raul Julia, Angelica Huston, Christopher Lloyd, Joan Cusack, Christina Ricci, David Krumholtz, Jimmy Workman, Carol Kane, Peter MacNicol, Christine Baranski, Kaitlyn Hooper, Kristen Hooper, Carel Struycken, Christopher Hart, Dana Ivey, Mercedes McNab, Sam McMurray, Harriet Sansom Harris, Julie Halston, Barry Sonnenfeld, Nathan Lane, Cynthia Nixon, David Hyde Pierce, Peter Graves, Tony Shalhoub

I’ve never done a Thanksgiving themed review before, so it might seem strange that I’m starting with “Addams Family Values”, which could seem off topic beyond the fact that it was a Thanksgiving eve release when it was originally released in theaters. The plot actually does touch upon Thanksgiving, however.

This sequel is generally considered to be superior to 1991’s original “The Addams Family”. That may be due to the fact that it doesn’t seem to be trying so hard. Instead of forcing a story upon these iconic television characters, the film just starts without much fanfare and hurries through a series of comic vignettes and a story just emerges from them. While these moments are genuinely funny and the main storyline of Joan Cusack’s black widow character wooing Fester for his money works much better than the first film’s flimsy real estate plot; it’s the subplot of the children, Wednesday and Pugsley, being sent to summer camp that steals the show.

During their time at camp Wednesday is chosen to play Pocahontas in a Thanksgiving themed musical. The camp directors are trying desperately to make Wednesday conform to their beliefs about what good children should be. Wednesday fools them into believing they’ve succeeded by smiling. When it comes time for the big show, however, she highjacks the production by rewriting history and having the Indians, played by all the camp’s outcasts, attack the pilgrims.

The summer camp section, while involving Thanksgiving, is also quite poignant today when considering the recent events in Ferguson, MO. The entire summer camp segment is a social commentary on our white dominated society. All of the “good” campers, a bunch of over-privileged spoiled brats, are all blonde and blue-eyed. The outcasts include the Addams kids and a cross section of America’s minorities. The whole section is a wonderful examination of how white people control minorities in this country by labeling them, demeaning them, and reinforcing their inferiority. This is all done quite cleverly disguised as lighthearted comedy.

Now, I have to condemn the riots that have befallen the poor residents of Ferguson since the decision not to indict Darren Wilson. People who don’t give a damn about Michael Brown, his family or the Ferguson community have led those riots. The ruthless attack of the Indians against the pilgrims in the summer camp’s play, however, seems quite justified. It isn’t presented in an innocent manner either. They quite literally burn down the set. The last time we see the leader of the campers, she is being prepped to be burned at the stake like the witch she is, while the counselors are being roasted over a fire. It’s all quite a scathing commentary. 

No comments: