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For those of you who don’t know the lineage of THE ADDAMS FAMILY ($30) movie, one has to venture back further than the sixties television series that so many of us have come to know and love. This journey takes all the way back to the brilliant cartoons of artist Charles Addams, whose work appeared originally appeared in the New Yorker magazine. Some of Addams’ work is still available today in book form, which I highly recommend acquiring for the uninitiated. One of the best gags in THE ADDAMS FAMILY is the opening shot to the film; this shot succeeds so marvelously because the ghoulish imagery was lifted directly from a classic Addams’ comic drawing. If you have never seen the film, I won’t spoil the effect of describing this wonderful little moment. 

The plot of THE ADDAMS FAMILY revolves around Fester Addams, who has been missing from the family for the last twenty-five years. Gomez (Raul Julia) longs for the return of his missing brother Fester, who ran off after a quarrel. Gomez and his wife Morticia (Anjelica Huston) even try to contact Fester in the great hereafter, but with no success. Hoping to take advantage of the situation, the unscrupulous family lawyer, Tully Alford (Dan Hedaya), devises a plan to bilk the Addams’ out of the family fortune with the help of a Fester look-alike (Christopher Lloyd).

The most humorous moments in THE ADDAMS FAMILY are little throwaways that don’t advance the plot, but create moments that are reminiscent of Charles Addams’ macabre work on the printed page. Additionally, every role in THE ADDAMS FAMILY has been cast to perfection. I don’t think anyone could bring to life Morticia and Gomez (the way Charles Addams drew them) as well as Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia; they are the perfect embodiment of that sick, twisted love affair. Christopher Lloyd brings a likable charm to the grotesque Fester and a very young Christina Ricci launched her career with her perfectly deadpan (and scene stealing) performance as Wednesday Addams. The cast of THE ADDAMS FAMILY also features Elizabeth Wilson, Judith Malina, Carel Struycken, Paul Benedict, Christopher Hart, Dana Ivey, Jimmy Workman and John Franklin.

Paramount Home Entertainment has issued THE ADDAMS FAMILY on DVD in a terrific looking wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. THE ADDAMS FAMILY is properly framed at 1.85:1 and the transfer really shows off the film’s purposefully dark cinematography. The image is crisp and well defined; even within the shadowy recesses of the picture there is a decent level of detail. Colors tend to be somewhat muted by design, however there are certain instances where hues that are more vividly rendered for effect. There are no problems with chroma noise or bleeding of the better-saturated colors. Flesh tones are decidedly unnatural, but that’s what one should expect from the clan named Addams. Blacks are faithfully recreated and the contrast is especially good at recreating the film’s skewed lighting design. This well authored DVD displays no noticeable traces of digital compression artifacts. 

THE ADDAMS FAMILY features a re-mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack that proves to be a sonic delight. The new mix is big and lively, with a spacious forward soundstage and very precise sound effect placement. Additionally, there is good deal of activity in the rear channels, including some nice split surround effects. The well-utilized surround channels really add to the film’s delightfully ghoulish atmosphere, as well as enhancing the film’s music. Speaking of the music, I was especially impressed with how good composer Marc Shaiman’s music sounds in the new mix. The fidelity is surprisingly good, rendering Shaiman’s score with a wonderfully musical quality. Dialogue reproduction is very clean and the bass channel gives the track a respectable bottom end. An English Dolby Surround soundtrack, as well as English subtitles are also encoded onto the DVD. The interactive menus are rather basic, providing the requisite scene selection and set up features. Two theatrical trailers are included on the DVD as supplement and are accessible through the interactive menus.


The Addams Family


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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