Page to Screen: The Addams Family (1991)

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The Addams Family
based on the comics by Charles Addams

★★★½☆

1991 • 99 minutes • Paramount Pictures

As a very young and very sheltered military brat in the late nineties and early aughts, my understanding of the pop cultural landscape around me was limited to what my mother watched, my brother played, and scraps of whatever mainstream anime I could get my hands on. But I could still largely match characters to their text of origin. You found Skywalkers in Star Wars, there were Borgs in Star Trek, and Pikachu in Pokemon.

But where did you find Addamses? That was a tougher question to answer, largely because we didn’t have Wikipedia in the nineties. They were definitely in the water, but where did they come from? Much like the Muppets, they appeared, to my sharky little eyes, to be a free-floating creative entity, untethered to any specific show. I mean, there were shows. There was The Addams Family: The Animated Series and The New Addams Family, which I caught glimpses of during my fanatical childhood devotion to Fox Family (rest in peace, you beautiful monster!). And then there were the movies—The Addams Family and Addams Family Values—which I never saw, but knew that they existed. But I’d never heard of the original television show or the original cartoons until college. I think this unsettles me a little bit because I’m otherwise so inured to extensive multimedia franchises, but it’s not like the Addams Family has a coherent story or continuity attached to it like, say, Star Wars.

The Addams Family boom of the nineties began with today’s film, 1991’s The Addams Family. We might complain about unnecessary film reboots these days (Memento? Seriously?), but the nineties hosted their own veritable cornucopia of rebooted sixties television shows—The Avengers, anyone? The Addams Family is no exception: its genesis is a crew of studio executives singing the theme song and realizing that there was still a lot of recognition value in that brand.

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