Looking for Mr. Goodfather

A painfully correct comedy and a cheerfully subversive one celebrate family values

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As it happens, Morticia and Gomez Addams (Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia) are also in need of a nanny as Addams Family Values opens, since they are expecting Pubert -- who is born mustachioed. It would have been salutary if Mrs. Doubtfire had been given the job, for it would have been a true test of her mettle. But the job goes to one Debbie Jellinsky (Joan Cusack), who sets about seducing Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) in what proves to be one of ^ the movie's less profitable conceits. Like the first of the Addams chronicles, this is an essentially lazy movie, too often settling for easy gags and special effects that don't come to any really funny point.

But as both its director (Barry Sonnenfeld) and its writer (Paul Rudnick) have been at pains to point out, the Addamses are a truly functioning, happily extended family, impervious to the discontents of middle-class civilization. Mom and Dad are passionately in love with each other, beamily indulgent of their children and entirely happy in their chosen life-style. "Is the pain unbearable?" Gomez inquires hopefully as Morticia is wheeled into the delivery room, and her enraptured smile is all the answer he requires.

They are, as well, ferocious defenders of their individuality. In the movie's most carefully pointed passage, the older children, Pugsley and Wednesday (Jimmy Workman and the divinely evil Christina Ricci), are shipped off to summer camp, where their resistance to huggy communitarianism and conventional good cheer is exemplary. They can't be brainwashed, even when they are locked into a cabin with tapes of The Sound of Music and other uplifting material. Dragooned into the camp pageant, they organize the other misfits and contrive to burn their blond, blue-eyed chief tormentor at the stake. Bless their twisted souls: they could teach Robin Williams a useful thing or two about what it really means to be "childlike."

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