Addams Family Reunion is a 1998 American direct-to-video supernatural children's film based on the characters from the cartoon created by cartoonist Charles Addams. Directed by Dave Payne, the film was intended to serve both as a reboot of the franchise, and as a pilot for a new proposed television series produced by Saban. The film starred Daryl Hannah and Tim Curry as Morticia and Gomez Addams. The film's plot focused on the eccentric, macabre aristocratic Addams family mistakenly arriving at the wrong family reunion and encountering a man (Ed Begley Jr.) who seeks to commit murder in order to inherit a fortune.
Payne had intended to give the film a dark, edgy tone, but Saban had interfered with the development, insisting that the story be aimed solely at entertaining children and lack much of the black comedy and anarchic satire of the previous entries in the franchise. Saban, however, wanted Payne to imitate aspects of Paramount Pictures' popular 1991-93 duology, and the 1964 TV series, and rejected any original idea developed by Payne and the film's screenwriters. As a result, the film was poorly received by critics, who panned the film's screenplay, special effects, production design and much of its acting, while singling out Tim Curry's performance for praise, calling Curry the best part of the film.
Discovering that his grandparents have developed "Waltzheimer's disease", a disease that is slowly turning them "normal", Gomez organizes a family reunion, hoping that some branch of his enormous family tree will find a cure. Unfortunately, the company arranging it misspells his surname and reunites him with the Adams family instead, including Dr. Philip Adams, who plans to poison his father and rearrange his will.
Gomez hopes that Dr. Adams can cure his grandparents; Morticia spends time with the women; Fester and Thing do their best to capture Butcher, a mutated puppy who feeds on human hair; Wednesday and Pugsley are busy making new friends; and Lurch falls in love. A couple who are headed to the reunion are given the wrong address and end up in the Addams family mansion, where Granny and Cousin Itt are staying.
- Tim Curry as Gomez Addams
- Daryl Hannah as Morticia Addams
- Nicole Fugere as Wednesday Addams
- Jerry Messing as Pugsley Addams
- Patrick Thomas as Uncle Fester Addams
- Carel Struycken as Lurch
- Christopher Hart's hand as Thing
- Alice Ghostley as Grandmama Frump
- Kevin McCarthy as Grandpa Addams
- Estelle Harris as Grandma Addams
- Haylie Duff as Gina Adams
- Phil Fondacaro as Cousin Itt
- Ed Begley, Jr. as Dr. Philip Adams
- Ray Walston as Walter Adams
- Diane Delano as Dolores Adams
- Heidi Noelle Lenhart as Melinda Adams
- Hilary Shepard Turner as Katherine Adams
- Rodger Halston as Geoff Adams
Following the success of the theatrically released films The Addams Family, released in 1991 and its 1993 sequel, wikipedia:Addams Family Values, Saban negotiated to purchase the home video production rights to the Addams Family brand in order to take advantage of the direct-to-video market. Because of the underwhelming commercial performance of Addams Family Values, as well as the death of Raul Julia, who had played Gomez Addams, Paramount Pictures ultimately decided not to produce a third film, resulting in Saban deciding to reboot the series.
Addams Family Reunion was coproduced by Saban with Warner Bros. The two studios planned to produce a new series called The New Addams Family, and intended to produce a two hour pilot film for the series, which eventually became Addams Family Reunion; Saban planned to premiere the film on a cable network owned by the company before releasing it direct-to-video, and to follow the film with a television series if the film did well.
Addams Family Reunion was scripted by Rob Kerchner, who had experience writing numerous direct-to-video sequels, and Scott Sandin; Saban wanted the script to be aimed only for children, with little attempt made to engage an adult audience. Dave Payne, whose directorial experience came from making direct-to-video low-budget horror films for Roger Corman, was hired to direct.
According to Payne, Saban had purchased the rights from Charles Addams' estate, and he felt he could start fresh and create a dark fantasy film, comparing the approach he wanted to take as director to the Coen brothers. However, Payne says, Saban wanted him to imitate Barry Sonnenfeld's films and the 1964 TV show, and any original idea proposed by Payne and the screenwriters was rejected. In addition to the film lacking the previous entries' black comedy, Nathan Rabin also said that Addams Family Reunion has little of the anarchic satire of the Sonnenfeld films; according to Rabin, the only satirical aspect of the film is that the "normal" Adams family, whose reunion the Addamses mistakenly attend, "turns out to be far more devious, conniving, and evil than the morbid but basically good Addams clan".
The producers wanted to bridge the gap in continuity between the Paramount films and the new series, and reached out to Anjelica Huston and Christopher Lloyd to reprise their roles as Morticia Addams and Uncle Fester, but both declined. Director Dave Payne, however, denies that Huston and Lloyd were considered for the film's casting. Christina Ricci and Jimmy Workman were too old to reprise their roles as Wednesday and Pugsley Addams. The only actors to reprise their roles from the Paramount films were Carel Struycken as Lurch, and Christopher Hart as Thing.
Recast as Gomez and Morticia Addams were Tim Curry and Daryl Hannah, with Pat Thomas as Fester and Nicole Figuere as Wednesday, a role she would later reprise for The New Addams Family TV series, the only member of the film's cast to do so. According to Payne, he and Curry both felt that Gomez should be played "weird", in contrast to the Latin lothario Raul Julia had created for the Paramount duology. Much of the film's cast, including Alice Ghostley, Ray Walston, Clint Howard, and Ed Begley Jr., had appeared in numerous direct-to-video movies.
Addams Family Reunion was shot in Los Angeles, California on a 30-day schedule. Ed Begley Jr. arrived on set unprepared for his first day of filming as a tennis pro, explaining that he had no idea how to play tennis, resulting in the director shooting around Begley's inability to play the sport, and the actor was also difficult to costume, because, as a dedicated environmentalist, Begley would not wear any animal-based clothing such as leather.
The show's famous theme song was performed in a doo-wop rendition by the group Strate Vocalz, which Yahoo! described as being "terrible". According to Payne, he had developed a "dark and edgy" opening sequence with appropriate music by the film's composer, but Saban, without his knowledge, had replaced his original opening title sequence and the original music with "some boy band, in bright fluorescent-colored shirts".
Release and reception
Addams Family Reunion was released straight-to-video. Only released on VHS, the film has never been released on DVD. The film was poorly received by critics, being compared unfavorably to the Paramount films, which reviewers felt Saban and Warner Bros. had tried, unsuccessfully, to imitate. Nathan Rabin wrote that "the dialogue is awful, the acting sitcom-broad [...] [and] the direction [is] unremarkable."
Other points of criticism made in negative reviews included poor CGI and cheap looking production design. However, Bloody Disgusting, Den of Geek and Nathan Rabin praised Tim Curry's performance as Gomez Addams.