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Picks and Pans Review: Addams Family Values

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Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston, Christopher Lloyd, Joan Cusack

It was perplexing, when the first Addams movie was released two years ago, to hear people complaining that it didn’t have a strong enough story—as if a movie based on New Yorker cartoons and a vintage sitcom should have the narrative brio of Doctor Zhivago. Who cares what the plot is? You just gather up the Addamses, send them out into the good, wide world (or bring the good, wide world to them), and see what happens. This time Morticia (Huston) races off to the hospital to give birth to a mustachioed baby boy, Pubert. Wednesday and Pugsley (Christina Ricci and Jimmy Workman) go to summer camp. And Uncle Fester (Lloyd) marries a gold-digging serial killer (Cusack). But what counts, really, is the nimble execution, the cast’s obvious pleasure in their ridiculous roles, a number of very good lines, and the occasional lunatic detail—the way, for instance, Huston, still draped in black while being wheeled into the delivery room, smiles with deep, masochistic pleasure when Gomez (Julia) asks about labor pains. Or the fact that Wednesday and Pugsley, having failed to be team players at camp, are locked up in something called the Harmony Hut, where they’re forced to watch The Brady Bunch. And then there’s Cusack, so intensely crazed she seems to be vibrating, like a femme fatale on a junk-food high. She has the movie’s one genuinely inspired scene in which the murderous Mrs. Fester explains why she turned to a life of crime. It has something to do with Malibu Barbie. (PG-13)