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Addams Family (4K Ultra HD), The
It had been at least a decade since I watched Barry Sonnenfeld's spooky comedy The Addams Family, starring the late Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston, Christopher Lloyd and Christina Ricci. Based on Charles Addams' cartoons and the 1964 television series, the film involves the macabre, wealthy Addams family, who lives in a crumbling mansion and offends the townsfolk with their bizarre mannerisms. Gomez Addams (Julia) still mourns the decades-long absence of his brother Fester (Lloyd), who left after the pair fought over women. Gomez's doting wife Morticia (Huston) reminds him that they have much to be thankful for, including creepy kids Wednesday (Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman). The family is rounded out by Grandmama (Judith Malina), butler Lurch (Care Stricken), hairy Cousin Itt (John Franklin) and disembodied hand Thing (Christopher Hart). The family decides to hold a seance to summon Fester back into the fold, and are aided by Gomez's crooked lawyer Tully Alford (Dan Hedaya) and con artist Abigail Craven (Elizabeth Wilson), who have their sights on the Addams family fortune. When Fester arrives, telling the family he has been stuck in the Bermuda Triangle, Gomez is initially overjoyed, but the family begins to suspect that Fester may be an imposter.
I can hardly believe The Addams Family is thirty years old. Sonnenfeld, a cinematographer who frequently collaborated with the Coen Brothers before going on to direct hits like this and the Men in Black films, has a dry, sardonic wit that is on full display here. This film certainly emulates its source material, but it is a whole lot more irreverent and hilarious without ever becoming crass. The film benefits from a sharp script by Caroline Thompson and Larry Wilson that plays on the family's ghoulish behaviors, but it is the fantastic cast that truly brings this material to life. Julia, who died in October 1994 from stomach-cancer complications, embodies the mustachioed Gomez with unmatched panache; the character is kind of dim-witted but Julia makes the man so damn likable. Huston, too, is fantastic as Morticia, and gives the matriarch the perfect blend of sass, sex appeal and motherly warmth, or chill as it may be here. Workman and Ricci, especially, are great fun to watch as the Addams children, who are forever encouraged to play with their foot at the dinner table.
Lloyd is also fantastic as the purported Uncle Fester, and he provides a great deal of humanity to the film as he discovers secrets kept in the numerous closets of the Addams family mansion. If you get some Beetlejuice vibes here that is to be expected given the spooky subject, and co-screenwriter Wilson also concocted the story for that film three years earlier. This film was not exactly beloved by critics upon release, but fans really rallied around the movie, leading to a sequel being released in 1993. The humor, sarcasm and double entendres are spot-on throughout the film, and The Addams Family also provides wonderful visual humor amid its morbid sets and intricate costumes. This film is certainly "creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky," which in my mind makes it a fantastic adaptation. The film's Fester mystery and Gomez's feud with long-suffering neighbor Judge George Womack (Paul Benedict) are fun to unravel, and the supporting cast, including the scrambling, CGI hand, are a hoot. Thirty years on, The Addams Family remains a ghoulish blast.
THE 4K ULTRA HD:
Paramount continues to f'n kill it on the 4K UHD market here, offering a Sonnenfeld-supervised remaster of the film. This 1.85:1/2160p/HEVC/H.265 image, with Dolby Vision and HDR10, from a native 4K source looks absolutely fantastic, and is a huge upgrade over the previous Blu-ray release. This filmic transfer offers a natural layer of grain and provides strong fine-object detail and texture throughout. Let's get the weaknesses out of the way first: Some of the visual and optical effects involving Thing are noticeably soft and do not quite seamlessly blend, and I suspect some noise reduction has been used on these shots. This is a minor issue, and probably a necessity, but it is something to note. Otherwise, fine-object detail is fantastic, and the pale facial features of Gomez, Morticia and company are rendered flawlessly. The Addams mansion and its corresponding corridors and traps is presented with fantastic clarity. The HDR pass gives the limited pops of color the film offers a substantial yet realistic boost, and blacks appear inky and beautifully resolved. The HDR pass also improves shadow detail and highlights, which are nicely rendered, too. The added "Mamushka" sequence is a bit grainier than the rest of the film, but not to a distracting level. I was kind of blown away by this transfer, and it has The Addams Family looking its absolute best.
The possibly recycled 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is perfectly presentable, and offers an immersive experience. Dialogue is crisp and clear, whether delivered from the center channel or surrounds. This movie is sonically playful, and the soundtrack makes excellent use of the surround speakers and subwoofer. Ambient and action effects surround the viewer, and the film's pratfalls are given full surround support. I noticed no issues with distortion or crowding. English SDH and French subtitles are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This single-disc release is packed in a black 4K case that is wrapped in a glossy slipcover. A digital copy code is included. You can choose to watch either the theatrical version of the film or the version with "More Mamushka!", which adds an entertaining dance number. Extras include an Introduction by Barry Sonnenfeld (0:32/4K); the new Filmmaker Focus: Barry Sonnenfeld on The Addams Family (16:32/HD); and an Archival Featurette (7:29/HD).
Barry Sonnenfeld's ghoulish comedy The Addams Family holds up thirty years later thanks to a witty script and pitch-perfect cast. Paramount's 4K Ultra HD release offers a couple of new extras, an extended cut of the film, and a fantastic presentation. Highly Recommended.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.