The Addams Family (1991 film)

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The Addams Family
The Addams Family.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBarry Sonnenfeld
Produced byScott Rudin
Written by
Based onThe Addams Family
by Charles Addams
Music byMarc Shaiman
CinematographyOwen Roizman
Edited byDede Allen
Distributed by
Release date
  • November 22, 1991 (1991-11-22)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$30 million[1]
Box office$191.5 million[3]

The Addams Family is a 1991 American supernatural black comedy film based on the characters from the cartoon created by cartoonist Charles Addams and the 1964 TV series produced by David Levy.[4] Directed by former cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld in his screen directing debut, the film stars Anjelica Huston, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance as Morticia Addams, Raul Julia as Gomez Addams, and Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester. The film focuses on a bizarre, macabre, aristocratic family who reconnect with who they believe to be a long-lost relative, Gomez's brother Fester Addams, who is actually the adopted son of a loan shark intending to swindle the Addams clan out of their vast wealth and fortune.

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 Columbia Pictures 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.


Gomez Addams 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/con artist 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 and Pugsley, 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 Addams family is 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 animate disembodied hand—becomes a courier. Despondent, Gomez sinks into depression and lethargy.

Morticia returns to the Addams home to confront Fester 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; Gomez gathers the family and 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.


Barry Sonnenfeld makes an uncredited cameo as a passenger on Gomez' train.



Scott Rudin, a development executive at 20th Century Fox, pitched to the studio an adaptation of Charles Addams' The Addams Family comic strips, and the studio enthusiastically agreed that the comics 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.[1] 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.[1] However, production finally moved forward when Addams' widow sold the remaining rights to Orion, who put the film in production with Rudin producing.[1]


Anjelica Huston 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.[5]


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.[1] 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."[6]

Special effects[edit]

Makeup and animatronic effects for the film were handled by Tony Gardner and his company Alterian, Inc.


After Tim Burton passed on directing the film, Barry Sonnenfeld took the job.[1] His first directing job after previously serving as director of photography for several major films, Sonnenfeld experienced much stress during filming.[1] 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.[7] 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.[1] 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.[1]

In her 2014 memoir Watch Me, Anjelica Huston described the filming of the Addams Family as "long and arduous."[8] 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.[8] 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.[8] 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."[8]

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.[1] In exchange, Paramount would own the domestic rights, as Orion had pre-sold the foreign rights to Columbia.[2] 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's Hook, 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.[1]

Musical score[edit]

The Addams Family Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
various artists[9]
ReleasedDecember 3, 1991[10]
LabelCapitol Records[9][10][11]
ProducerHummie Mann[9]
Marc Shaiman[9]
Singles from The Addams Family Soundtrack
  1. "Addams Groove"
    Released: December 17, 1991

The Addams Family Soundtrack was produced by Hummie Mann and Marc Shaiman.[9] It was orchestrated by Hummie Mann and composed by Duke Ellington, Irving Mills, Marc Shaiman and Saxie Dowell.[9] It was released on December 3, 1991[10] by Capitol Records.[9][10][11] "Addams Groove" by MC Hammer was the theme song for the movie and the music video was played prior to the film.

Professional ratings
Review scores
Soundtrack.net4.5/5 stars[10]


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.[1][12]


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.[1]

Box office[edit]

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.[3]

Home media[edit]

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.[1] 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.[13] Paramount Home Entertainment released the film on DVD in 2000; this release contained only two trailers as bonus features.[14] The movie was reissued in a double feature with Addams Family Values in 2006.[15] On September 9, 2014, Warner Home Video released the film on Blu-ray in the United States;[16] Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment (through Walt Disney Studios 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,[17] along with single releases of each film.


Critical response[edit]

While The Addams Family was a box office hit, it received mixed reviews. On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film received an approval rating of 64% based on 47 reviews, with an average rating of 5.78/10. 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."[18][19][20] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 57 out of 100 based on 19 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[21] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a grade B.[22] Roger Ebert gave the film 2 out of 4 stars, saying it was mildly entertaining but did not add up to much.[23] Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader called the film a "collection of one-liners and not much more".[24] Variety magazine wrote, "Despite inspired casting and nifty visual trappings, the eagerly awaited Addams Family figures a major disappointment."[25]


The Addams Family was awarded Best Horror Film of the Year in 1991 by the Horror Hall of Fame. Carel Struycken appeared at the award ceremony to receive the award on behalf of the cast.[26] Huston was nominated for the 1992 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for her performance as Morticia.[27] The film was nominated for an Academy Award for achievement in costume design.[28] The film won a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song for the song "Addams Groove" by MC Hammer.[29]The film also won an award for Favorite Movie at 1992 Kids' Choice Awards.

In other media[edit]


A documentary, The Making of The Addams Family, was produced to promote the film in 1991.[30]

Video game[edit]

A game based on the film was released for various handheld and home computer platforms.[31]

Pinball machine[edit]

The Addams Family pinball machine 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.[32][33]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Brew, Simon (September 29, 2014). "The huge behind the scenes problems on The Addams Family". Den of Geek!. Dennis Publishing. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "AFI|Catalog". Retrieved 2020-02-03.
  3. ^ a b "The Addams Family". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  4. ^ Goldstein, Patrick (March 31, 1991). "COVER STORY : Meet the New Addams Family : The weird brood from Charles Addams cartoons and '60s TV is back in a big-name, $30-million movie". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  5. ^ Silverman, Rosa (November 16, 2014). "I based Morticia Addams on Jerry Hall, says Anjelica Huston". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  6. ^ Vineyard, Jennifer (April 27, 2012). "Barry Sonnenfeld on Men In Black III, Working With Will Smith, and Time Travel". Vulture. New York Media. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  7. ^ "The Addams Family". The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d Huston, Anjelica (2014). Watch Me. Scribner's. p. 241-242.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h "March Shaiman and Hummie Mann produce Addams Family Soundtrack". Retrieved April 26, 2016.
  10. ^ a b c d e "The Addams Family Soundtrack information". Retrieved April 26, 2016.
  11. ^ a b c "The Addams Family Soundtrack information". Retrieved April 26, 2016.
  12. ^ Vaughn, Susan (December 6, 1991). "The teenager is always right". Entertainment Weekly. Time. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  13. ^ Nichols, Peter M. (May 31, 1993). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS; McDonald's Joins the Ranks Of the Videocassette Giants". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  14. ^ Beierle, Aaron (February 23, 2000). "Addams Family". DVD Talk. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  15. ^ Weinberg, Scott (October 23, 2006). "The Addams Family / Addams Family Values". DVD Talk. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  16. ^ "The Addams Family Blu-ray". Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  17. ^ "Addams Family & Addams Family Values".
  18. ^ "The Addams Family (1991)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved February 20, 2020.
  19. ^ Turan, Kenneth (November 22, 1991). "MOVIE REVIEWS : 'The Addams Family': Kooky, Spooky--Creaky". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  20. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (November 29, 1991). "The Addams Family". Entertainment Weekly. Time. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  21. ^ "The Addams Family". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  22. ^ "Find CinemaScore". Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  23. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 22, 1991). "The Addams Family". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  24. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan. "The Addams Family". Chicago Reader. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  25. ^ Variety Staff (December 31, 1990). "The Addams Family". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  26. ^ 3rd Annual Horror Hall of Fame Telecast, 1991
  27. ^ "Golden Globes, USA: 1992 Awards". IMDb. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  28. ^ "The Addams Family (1991): Awards". IMDb. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  29. ^ "1991 Archive". Archived from the original on August 14, 2004. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  30. ^ "The Making of 'The Addams Family' (1991)". IMDb. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  31. ^ "The Addams Family – Credits". GameFAQs. CBS Interactive. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  32. ^ Eschner, Kat (March 1, 2017). "Why Is This 25-Year-Old Pinball Machine Still the Most Popular?". Smithsonian Magazine. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  33. ^ Porges, Seth (August 5, 2008). "Top 8 Most Innovative Pinball Machines of All Time". Popular Mechanics. Hearst Communications. Retrieved April 12, 2019.

External links[edit]