“It’s very important,” says Wednesday Addams, the deadest of deadpanners. In fact, it’s the delivery that’s significant as it’s universal: regardless of the dialogue or scenario, Wednesday never differentiates from the same straight-faced execution and monotone. It’s one of her defining character traits as a seminal pop culture Goth and icon for all macabre little girls growing up everywhere. It became the defining role of Christina Ricci’s career at just 11 years old and for good reason: few people have been a better fit, even Lisa Loring whose Wednesday came before Ricci’s and spanned years in the 1960s television adaptation.
First appearing as cartoons in The New Yorker in the late 30s, The Addams Family drew its title from its creator – American cartoonist Charles Addamsin – and was a satirical take on the American family archetype that was beginning to gain traction heading towards the 1950s. It shifted from cult to mainstream status with the television series, one of the first sitcoms, which ran for two seasons before the “all together ooky” family would pop up in Scooby-Doo specials, an animated series, and made-for-television movies intermittently. However, it hit its peak with the Barry Sonnenfeld-directed features The Addams Family (1991) and Addams Family Values (1993) with the first being a surprise box-office hit and the second being – in the words of Roger Ebert – “the rare sequel that is better than its original".
The title was subtle middle finger from screenwriter Paul Rudnick to American politician Dan Quayle, who said just a year before the film’s release that the L.A. Riots were caused by America abandoning family values. Although like its predecessor the A-plot remains firmly focussed on the adults, the B-plot in Addams Family Values gave the children more to do – namely Ricci’s Wednesday, who had emerged as a fan favourite. From this comes the great deadpan delivery of not just “it’s very important” but almost every line in the film, Ricci at most giving a lip-twitch of a smirk as she burns an entire camp production down or tries to decapitate her baby brother with a guillotine (as you do). Yet this is primarily what makes it so hilarious and entertaining to watch, with the great Raúl Juliá and Anjelica Huston as her parents Gomez and Morticia Addams giving impassioned, theatrical, and over-the-top deliveries of every line – minor or major – what’s “important” is the juxtaposition of Wednesday’s dry execution, which ends up making everything, well, “important”.
– Maria Lewis