The Addams Family (1991 film)
The film was noted for its troubled production; originally developed at Orion
, the film went $5 million over budget due to constant rewrites throughout shooting; health problems of people involved in the filming and an overall stressful filming for Sonnenfeld himself, caused multiple delays. The rise in production costs from the film's $25 million budget to $30 million led Orion, fearful of another big-budget flop and financially struggling, to sell the film to Paramount
, who completed the film and handled the film's domestic distribution, while Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
distributed the film internationally. The film was commercially successful, making back several times its production costs, and was followed by a sequel, Addams Family Values
, two years later.
laments the 25-year absence of his brother Fester
, who disappeared after the two had a falling-out. Gomez's lawyer Tully Alford owes money to loan shark
Abigail Craven, and notices that her adopted son Gordon closely resembles Fester. Tully proposes that Gordon pose as Fester to infiltrate the Addams household and find the hidden vault where they keep their vast riches. Tully and his wife Margaret attend a séance
at the Addams home led by Grandmama
in which the family tries to contact Fester's spirit. Gordon arrives, posing as Fester, while Abigail poses as a German psychiatrist named Dr. Greta Pinder-Schloss and tells the family that Fester had been lost in the Bermuda Triangle
for the past 25 years until she found him in some tuna nets.
Gomez, overjoyed to have "Fester" back, takes him to the family vault to view home movies from their childhood. Gordon learns the reason for the brothers' falling-out: Gomez was jealous of Fester's success with women, and wooed the conjoined twins
Flora and Fauna Amor away from him out of envy. Gomez starts to suspect that "Fester" is an impostor when he is unable to recall important details about their past. Gordon attempts to return to the vault, but is unable to get past a booby trap
. Gomez's wife Morticia
reminds "Fester" of the importance of family among the Addamses and of their vengeance against those who cross them. Fearing that the family is getting wise to their con, Abigail (under the guise of Dr. Pinder-Schloss) convinces Gomez that his suspicions are due to displacement
Gordon grows closer to the Addams family, particularly the children Wednesday
, whom he helps to prepare a swordplay sequence for a school play. Abigail had insisted that Gordon not attend the play, but after feeling deeply saddened by this, he attends anyway. After the play, Dr. Pinder-Schloss insists that "Fester" must once again leave, so the Addamses throw a large party with their extended family and friends, during which Abigail plans to break into the vault. Wednesday overhears Abigail and Gordon discussing the plan, and escapes them by hiding in the family cemetery. Tully learns that as the elder brother, Fester is the executor of the Addams estate and therefore technically owns the entire property. With help from the Addamses' neighbor Judge George Womack, whom Gomez has repeatedly infuriated by hitting golf balls into his house, Tully procures a restraining order
against the family, banning them from the estate. Gomez attempts to fight the order in court, but Judge Womack rules against him out of spite.
While Abigail, Gordon, and Tully try repeatedly and unsuccessfully to get past the booby trap blocking access to the vault, the Addamses are forced to move into a motel and find jobs. Morticia tries to be a preschool teacher, Wednesday and Pugsley sell toxic lemonade, and Thing
—the family's animated disembodied hand—becomes a courier. Despondent, Gomez sinks into depression and lethargy.
Morticia returns to the Addams home to confront Gordon and is captured by Abigail and Tully, who torture her in an attempt to learn how to access the vault. Thing observes this and informs Gomez, using Morse code
, who then rushes to Morticia's rescue. Abigail threatens Morticia's life if Gomez does not surrender the family fortune. Fed up with his mother's behavior and constant berating, Gordon turns against her. Using a magical book which projects its contents into reality, he unleashes a hurricane into the house, which strikes his own head with lightning and launches Tully and Abigail out of a window and into open graves dug for them by Wednesday and Pugsley.
The movie ends with a coda, taking place seven months later at Halloween
. The family states that Gordon was really Fester all along, and that the previously made-up story about Fester being found in the tuna nets after being lost in the Bermuda Triangle is true. They further state that Fester had suffered from amnesia
this entire time, and only recovered his memories after being struck by lightning. With the family whole again as they play "Wake the Dead", Morticia informs Gomez that she is pregnant
, a development executive at 20th Century Fox
, pitched to the studio an adaptation of Charles Addams
' The Addams Family
cartoons, and the studio enthusiastically agreed that the cartoons would make a good film, and set out to purchase the rights. However, Fox would ultimately not make the film, as Orion Pictures
, who owned the film rights to The Addams Family
, would not sell the property, as they were planning on producing a rebooted TV series. Further crucial property rights were owned by Charles Addams' widow.
Another difficulty in getting the film produced was the obscurity of The Addams Family 1964 TV series
, as the show had not achieved the syndicated popularity of the similarly toned comedy The Munsters
However, production finally moved forward when Addams' widow sold the remaining rights to Orion, who put the film in production with Rudin producing.
said she based aspects of her performance on her friend Jerry Hall
to give the character more warmth. Huston said she would have expected the role to go to Cher
but was a longtime fan of Morticia.
Caroline Thompson and Larry Wilson wrote the first draft of the screenplay, which was extensively rewritten later by other writers, including Paul Rudnick, who later wrote Addams Family Values
In a 2012 interview, Sonnenfeld stated that he originally intended that it be unclear whether Fester really was an imposter or not, but all the other actors rebelled and chose 10-year-old Christina Ricci to speak on their behalf, who "gave this really impassioned plea that Fester shouldn't be an imposter... so we ended up totally changing that plot point to make the actors happy. And they were right — it was the better way to go."
After Tim Burton
passed on directing the film because he was busy filming Batman Returns
the sequel to the 1989 film Batman
at the time, Barry Sonnenfeld
took the job.
His first directing job after previously serving as director of photography for several major films, Sonnenfeld experienced much stress during filming.
Most of the film was shot on Stage 3/8 at the Hollywood Center Studios in Los Angeles, the same studio where the original TV series was filmed.
In the last three months of production, director of photography Owen Roizman quit, and was replaced by Gale Tattersall. Filming resumed, but within weeks Tattersall was rushed to the hospital, halting production while Sonnenfeld took over cinematography, while simultaneously directing the film.
Further delays occurred when a blood vessel in actor Raul Julia
's eye burst, leading the production to film around Julia until he recovered, and Sonnenfeld's wife became sick, halting production.
In her 2014 memoir Watch Me
, Anjelica Huston described the filming of the Addams Family
as "long and arduous."
It was decided that the character of Morticia should have eyes which slanted upwards at the sides, an effect which was achieved by attaching an elastic strap to the back of Huston's head via fabric tabs glued at her temples, which pulled the corners of her eyes upwards.
A second strap was added to balance the appearance of the lower part of her face with the upper. The bands caused extended discomfort to Huston, and, unless she removed them at lunchtime, she would suffer severe headaches and rashes later in the day. Removing the bands for a break entailed hours of extra work in both removing and then re-applying her makeup and wig. On top of this, the bands would snap at the slightest turn of Huston's head, causing yet more grueling repair time. Eventually, she learned to pivot and turn on her feet without moving her upper body or head.
According to Huston, actress Judith Malina's way of enduring being "embedded in latex for over twelve hours a day" was to "smoke an endless series of joints
in her trailer throughout filming."
Another production difficulty was the financial decline of original production studio Orion Pictures, who, while having recently made the big hits The Silence of the Lambs
and Dances with Wolves
, had also produced several major flops which ate up the studios' funds, leading Orion to sell The Addams Family
, while still in production, to Paramount Pictures
In exchange, Paramount would own the domestic rights, as Orion had pre-sold the foreign rights to Columbia
Part of Orion's motivation to sell the film was that the film, originally budgeted at $25 million, had gone $5 million over budget due to newly added material as a result of the film's numerous rewrites. With the projected release date competing with Steven Spielberg
, Orion feared that The Addams Family
would be another expensive flop, and decided to cut its losses. Ultimately, The Addams Family
was a box-office hit. As the sale occurred late in production, the filmmakers were unaware that Paramount had taken over production, learning of the sale from a journalist rather than either of the studios.
The film was further shaped by test screenings. The Mamushka sequence, a musical dance number, was significantly longer in the original cut, but was shortened following negative responses from test audiences.
Another obstacle in releasing the film occurred when, as the studios prepared the film for release, David Levy, the producer of the 1964 Addams Family TV series, filed a lawsuit against Paramount Pictures, claiming that the film infringed on his property rights. The suit was eventually settled out of court, after the film's release, due to Paramount wanting to quickly film a sequel due to the film's success.
In 2014, Den of Geek
reported that the ownership issues surrounding the film (with domestic rights being handled by Paramount and foreign being held by Orion's successor-in-interest MGM), kept the film out of print overseas after its initial VHS release, and would not be resolved until 2013.
In 1993, McDonald's
sold low-cost, exclusive VHS
editions of The Addams Family
and Wayne's World
to coincide with the theatrical releases of Addams Family Values
and Wayne's World 2
, as part of an exclusive distribution deal with Paramount Home Entertainment
Paramount Home Entertainment released the film on DVD
in 2000; this release contained only two trailers as bonus features.
The movie was reissued in a double feature
with Addams Family Values
On September 9, 2014, Warner Home Video
released the film on Blu-ray
in the United States; Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
(under license from MGM
) also released the film on Blu-Ray internationally. On October 1, 2019, Paramount Pictures released a double-feature Blu-ray of The Addams Family
and Addams Family Values
along with single releases of each film.
The Addams Family
grossed $113,502,246 in the United States and $191,502,246 worldwide, turning a significant profit against the $30 million production costs.
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes
, the film has an approval rating of 64% based on 47 reviews, with an average rating of 5.80/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The movie is peppered with amusing sight gags and one-liners, but the disjointed script doesn't cohere into a successful whole."
, the film has a weighted average score of 57 out of 100 based on 19 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Audiences polled by CinemaScore
gave the film a grade B.
gave the film 2 out of 4 stars, saying it was mildly entertaining but did not add up to much. Jonathan Rosenbaum
of the Chicago Reader
called the film a "collection of one-liners and not much more". Variety
magazine wrote, "Despite inspired casting and nifty visual trappings, the eagerly awaited Addams Family
figures a major disappointment."
According to the BBC, "it is the top-notch cast that elevates this film from flimsy to sheer delight."
A documentary, The Making of The Addams Family
, was produced to promote the film in 1991.
The Addams Family
was a commercial arcade pinball machine made by Bally/Williams
and was released in March 1992. It became the best selling pinball machine of all time, with more than 20,000 units sold.
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Last edited on 30 April 2021, at 06:18
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