The animated sequel The Addams Family 2 arrives soon, but how do the existing entries into the Addams Family series rank in comparison with each other? The Addams Family began life as a series of morbidly funny cartoons by Charles Addams for The New Yorker in the 1930s. Combining cute family comedy with some surprisingly dark punchlines, the cartoons were a huge hit that spawned multiple TV shows and movies, both live-action and animated.
The first Addams Family movie came in the form of 1977’s television movie Halloween With The New Addams Family, and it would be over a decade before the brood appeared in feature-length form on-screen again. Starring Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, and Back to the Future’s Doc Brown Christopher Lloyd, 1991’s The Addams Family was a campy, financially successful reinvention of the titular clan. However, the movie was not a big hit with critics, thanks to its uneven tone.
1993 saw the family return to cinema screens with Addams Family Values, a darker sequel that disappointed at the box office but earned better reviews than its predecessor. As is the fate of most franchises that fail to make a splash at the box office, the Addams Family were soon relegated to a direct-to-video sequel in the form of 1998’s Addams Family Reunion. With a new cast, this outing failed to make the same impact as the original movies, and the next time the clan appeared onscreen was in 2019’s The Addams Family. An animated effort from the Madagascar franchise mastermind Conrad Vernon, this outing was a massive financial success despite earning mixed reviews. As a result, a sequel was all but inevitable, and sure enough, 2021 will soon see the arrival of The Addams Family 2. So, how do the movies rank in comparison to each other, and which is the best—and worst—of the lot?
Halloween With The New Addams Family
A barely feature-length first outing for the clan, Halloween With The New Addams Family is more of a thrown-together special episode than an actual standalone movie. Ironically, given the title of the later 1998 movie, Halloween With The New Addams Family was something of a reunion for The Addams Family‘s original sitcom cast as Carolyn Jones, John Astin, and Jackie Coogan all reprised their roles from the ‘60s series. Halloween With The New Addams Family was also released at the heyday of the TV movie era when even Wes Craven was shooting features for a medium that would later be seen as a step down from the multiplex. Unfortunately, Halloween With The New Addams Family could not bring back the most important aspect of the original show’s success—its witty, dark humor.
By the late ‘70s, the coyly macabre jokes of the original sitcom were seen as tame by an audience who had been introduced to darker, raunchier comedy in the intervening decade. Sadly, Halloween With The New Addams Family did little to update the show’s trademark humor. The jokes feel dated and corny in this late addition to the franchise, a problem not helped by a threadbare plot. Halloween With The New Addams Family isn’t un-watchable (although the witch doctor subplot has not aged too well). Still, as a somewhat cobbled-together effort, it is the least essential of the family’s feature-length outings.
Addams Family Reunion
Despite netting cult icon/original Pennywise the Dancing Clown Tim Curry as Gomez Addams (a truly inspired casting coup), Addams Family Reunion has little else going for it as an addition to the live-action Addams Family oeuvre. The premise is solid—the Addams arrive at the wrong family reunion, where their creepy ways clash with outwardly normal guests, only for the seemingly “ordinary” family to be involved in a murder mystery plot. However, director Dave Payne claimed the erstwhile entertainment giant Saban demanded he steered clear of the darker elements of earlier live-action Addams Family movies, resulting in an outing that is too slapstick and G-rated to work as part of the franchise. That said, Curry carries this one on his back and single-handedly elevates the flawed film with a typically charismatic performance that makes Addams Family Reunion worth a watch.
The Addams Family (2019)
2019’s The Addams Family was wildly financially successful, earning over $200 million on a budget of $24 million. Casting Furiosa herself Charlize Theron as the icy Morticia Addams was a clever choice, as was the seductive but offbeat Oscar Isaac as Gomez. However, the pair are unable to inject much life into this animated effort. The overly familiar plotline (the Addams relocate to an average suburb where their lifestyle inevitably attracts the ire of the locals) is used as a springboard for some fun sight gags and occasionally clever satirical jabs. However, much of the humor is too topical and already feels dated two years after the movie’s release, while the animation style cannot help but look a little cheap in comparison to the similar but more visually lush Hotel Transylvania franchise. Still, horror legend Chloe Grace Moretz is as good a Wednesday as Christina Ricci, and the cast’s collective efforts make this one a perfectly passable outing.
The Addams Family (1991)
Despite director Barry Sonnenfeld’s The Addams Family introducing arguably the most famous iteration of the clan seen onscreen so far, it’s a significantly weaker movie than its darker sequel. The Addams Family not only follows the same “the brood must relocate to a more normal community, where they are shunned” storyline as 2019’s The Addams Family, it also keeps its humor much more anodyne and child-friendly than the more risqué Addams Family Values. That said, this is still the outing that introduced Christopher Lloyd’s Uncle Fester, Raul Julia’s Gomez, and Anjelica Huston’s unmatched Morticia, as well as Christina Ricci’s Wednesday. While the tone is uneven, the casting is on point and remains unmatched (although Tim Burton’s upcoming Wednesday may offer the best Addams family cast yet).
Addams Family Values
Darker, funnier, twister, and faster-paced, 1993’s Addams Family Values is an all-around superior sequel that builds on the promise of the original outing. Viewers who liked Christina Ricci’s Wednesday will love the superb subplot where she is sent to summer camp and turns the cheery environs into anarchy. Viewers who found Christopher Lloyd’s zany Uncle Fester charming will be delighted by Joan Cusack’s comically conniving villainess, a femme fatale who ensnares him and lives to regret it. Meanwhile, Julia and Huston are stronger than ever as the concerned family attempting to ensure Fester survives his romantic entanglement, and their charming work affirms that, alongside Alien’s first sequel, Aliens, and The Godfather Part II, Addams Family Values is a rare follow-up that comfortably outstrips its predecessor.
More: The Addams Family Reboot Can Rescue Tim Burton’s Career
- The Addams Family 2 (2021)Release date: Oct 01, 2021
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