The Best Thanksgiving Movie: 35 Things You Didn't Know About Addams Family Values
The 1993 sequel features the greatest Thanksgiving scene in cinematic history.
Turkey Day is right around the corner, and if you're seeking the perfect movie to get you in the feasting mood, look no further than Addams Family Values. Read on for our guide to every little thing you didn't know about the movie, no matter how many times you've watched it.
Addams Family Values might not seem like a Thanksgiving movie if you only read the back of the box. The 1993 sequel sees the Addamses driven apart by the influence of a gold-digging serial killer who gets Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) sent to summer camp while she lulls Morticia (Anjelica Huston) and Gomez (Raul Julia) and seduces Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd). It had the same macabre sensibilities as the original, and continued to be inspired by Charles Adams' original cartoons.
What does this have to do with the upcoming holiday, and how could Addams Family Values possibly be the greatest Thanksgiving film ever? It's simple: Throughout the movie's second half, the kids' unbearably upbeat camp counselors plan a Thanksgiving-themed pageant for the end of the summer, and the results rocket AFV to the top of the Turkey Day list.
If you haven't seen it, go watch it now, but suffice to say, Wednesday, who plays Pocahontis in the pageant, does not stick to the script. Instead of worshipping the pilgrims, she demolishes her "privileged" fellow campers' racist Thanksgiving myth and sums up centuries of mistreatment of this country's native population with a handful of incisory, flawlessly delivered lines of dialogue. And then she burns her fellow campers at the stake and roasts their counselors on a spit.
If that doesn't make a film the best choice to watch on Thanksgiving, I don't know what could. To celebrate this masterpiece, we combed through interviews the cast and creators gave over the years--there are no special features to speak of, unfortunately--and the movie itself to find hidden details, jokes, and Easter eggs you might have missed. Enjoy, and happy Thanksgiving.
1. The movie was intended to be overtly anti-Republican
The original Addams Family movie was not overtly political, but the sequel's writer, Paul Rudnick--who also helped re-write the first film--wrote anti-Republican themes into Addams Family Values.
"I did also want the movie's name to be a response to the Republican Party's constant harping on 'family values,' as if only conservatives could define a loving family. In Republican terms, 'family values' is always code for censorship and exclusion, and Republicans still refuse to respect or even acknowledge, for example, LGBTQ families. I like to believe that the Addams Family is far more loving and accepting than their enemies," Rudnick told in a 2018 interview.
2. Raul Julia's eye fell out during shooting
In the same feature as above, Anjelica Huston recounted a story involving her co-star Raul Julia's eye falling out of his head at a bar after shooting one day. "I came on set one morning and someone said, 'Raul's eye fell out last night,'" Huston said. Apparently he caught it, and inserted it back in his head, then showed up to set the next morning looking bloodshot.
The incident inspired an excellent prank: "That afternoon, I called up every joke store in L.A. and bought every pair of those joke glasses on springs, where the eyeballs fall out," Huston continued. "So the next morning, when Raul walked onto the set, the entire crew was wearing these glasses. He laughed like hell. It was serious, but it was also really bizarre."
3. Raul Julia sang opera to Anjelica Huston's frogs
Another Huston anecdote: "I also remember when we shot in the Sequoia National Forest, which is close to a little ranch that I had then owned for about five or seven years, something like that. Raul stayed with me while we filmed up there. My housekeeper made him a really beautiful Mexican meal with chicken mole, margaritas and everything. That night, I went to bed. And he stayed up and sang to the frogs in my pond. That was a really magical moment, hearing Raul singing opera to the frogs."
Julia died less than a year after Addams Family Values hit theaters; it was his last movie released during his lifetime.
4. Granny Addams was recast for the sequel
Played by Judith Malina in the original, Morticia's mother, Granny Addams, was portrayed by Carol Kane in AFV. Kane already knew several of the cast, including Huston, so she was a good fit, with one problem: she was actually slightly younger than the actress playing her daughter. Kane told THR that the makeup process to turn her into Granny took about four hours per day, and the wig alone weighed around 5 pounds.
5. Lurch is playing a variation on the original theme song
In the first scene set in the Addamses' mansion, Lurch is seen playing a variation on the original Addams Family theme song, written by Hollywood composer Vic Mizzy for the 1964 TV series.
6. Baby Pubert was an unused idea from the original comics
According to the writer, Rudnick, the idea for the Addams clan to get a new member named Pubert came from original creator Charles Addams. "And the name of their child, Pubert, was, in fact, from a cartoon that The New Yorker had refused to publish because it was considered way too over-the-line and provocative at the time," he told in 2013.
7. The movie pushed boundaries, but received little pushback
In 1993, seeing so much violence perpetrated on--and largely by--children was envelope-pushing, even if that violence was entirely cartoonish and bereft of consequences. "I remember there was one moment on set when [director Barry Sonnenfeld] called his wife gleefully and said, 'Guess what? Today I threw a baby off a roof!'" Rudnick told Buzzfeed. "So once that proved normal, there were very few boundaries."
8. This wallpaper changes throughout the movie
The decor in Baby Pubert's room changes obviously throughout the movie as Debbie's influence infects the child with a very un-Addams-like innocence. More subtle is the way this botanical wallpaper changes; At times the leaves appear wilted, while during other scenes they're healthy.
9. Torture? Yes please
Among the many torture devices in the Addamses' attic--not to mention presumably plundered traffic and warning signs--are a bed of nails and an iron maiden. Who didn't want those as a kid?
10. Hi Miranda
Sex and the City fans should recognize the actress who plays this would-be nanny: She's Cynthia Nixon, who would go on to portray Miranda on the popular HBO show.
12. This line is a reference to The Fly
When the Addams kids meet Debbie for the first time, Wednesday tells her to "Be afraid. Be very afraid." It's a reference to the 1986 David Cronenberg body horror classic; this was the movie's tagline.
13. This show should seem familiar
While "America's Most Disgusting Unsolved Crimes" is not a real show, it's certainly a satirical reference to two actual programs that were popular at the time: America's Most Wanted and Unsolved Mysteries. These things are burned into your subconscious if you grew up in the '80s or '90s.
There's an octopus painted on the end of the bed the kids are sitting on. In the original series, Pugsley had a pet octopus named Aristotle.
14. "It means orphan."
Wednesday grimly declares that the word "Chippewa" means "orphan," but in reality, the Chippewa are a tribe of people native to southern Canada and the northern Midwestern United States, also known as the Ojibwa or Ojibway.
15. You guys want some cookies?
Wednesday's summer camp rival, Amanda Buckman, was played by Mercedes McNab. She should look familiar if you're a fan of both Addams Family films, because she also played a girl scout in one memorable scene in the original.
16. A regular Hitchcock
Here's another cameo: Barry Sonnenfeld, who directed both movies, played Joel's dad.
17. A morbid background joke
Christina Ricci's performance as Wednesday Addams is so arresting that it's easy to miss the fact that Pugsley is trying to hang himself in the background of this shot. After being introduced to Camp Chippewa, can you blame him?
18. They heated the lake
Mercedes McNab, who played Amanda, told Buzzfeed that the production crew somehow heated the lake for the scene in which she jumps in and pretends to drown. In the scene, you can see steam coming from the water's surface.
19. Another familiar actress
The woman whose cigarette Gomez lights in the restaurant is played by Monet Mazur, who would go on to have more prominent roles in movies like The House Bunny and shows like All America.
20. Michael Jackson made an original Addams Family tie-in song and music video
The Michael Jackson song Is It Scary was written for the Addams Family Values soundtrack. Jackson even made a music video involving an Addams-like mansion. However, the first child abuse allegations against Jackson emerged just a few months before the movie was set to be released, and the song was cut from the soundtrack--which makes the gag when Joel screams at the MJ poster all the darker.
21. A Brief History of Time
To demonstrate that Joel is a nerd, he's seen holding A Brief History of Time, the seminal 1988 book by renowned physicist Stephen Hawking. Joel laments that he'd rather read about science than do dumb summer camp arts and crafts. I've never related to a character more.
22. Under an Amber Moon
The drink that Gomez mixes for Baby Pubert following the bachelor party is an Amber Moon, also known as a Prairie Oyster: Vodka, raw egg, and hot sauce. Hair of the pup!
23. This was improv
According to David Krumholtz, who played Joel Glicker, he actually screwed up during this scene, because he really couldn't get the arrow knocked. "In real-life frustration, that's me throwing [the arrow] down and walking out. I was super angry at myself. Then, after they cut, they all started laughing and they were like, 'That was hilarious!' I was like, 'Oh! OK!'" he told Buzzfeed.
24. The Long Island Lolita
Joel gets an Amy Fischer card in his "Murderers Killers and Psychos" pack. Fischer, known as the Long Island Lolita, shot her lover's wife, Mary Jo Buttafuoco. She served seven years in prison and was paroled in 1999. Ironically, Fischer never actually killed anyone.
25. Deja vu
The cop in this scene is played by Nathan Lane, an actor who you probably recognize from various movies and shows over the years. However, you might not know that Lane eventually played another Addams Family role: He starred as Gomez himself in the 2009 stage play The Addams Family: A New Musical.
26. Always a day away
Among Sound of Music and The Brady Bunch, the kids are also forced to watch the classic musical Annie in the Harmony Hut. It's an interesting choice, considering that the 1982 film was directed by John Huston--Anjelica Huston's father.
27. A lawyer? Not in my house
Gomez laments the fact that, as Granny predicts, Pubert might someday become a lawyer if the family isn't reunited. This is ironic given that, in the original 1960s show, Gomez was a retired lawyer.
28. Killer choreographer
AFV's dance numbers were choreographed by Adam Shankman, who has directed, produced, and consulted on countless projects since, from the Step Up franchise to 2002's A Walk to Remember. That's why "Eat Me" is so damn good.
29. Monk ho!
The chief Manly Sailor here is played by Tony Shalhoub, who would go on to star in the popular USA Network procedural Monk.
30. Christina Ricci was not into this kiss
According to David Krumholtz, who played Joel Glicker, Ricci was freaked out by his awkward teenage mustache (invisible as it may appear on film). "I remember Christina complaining that I had peach fuzz on my upper-lip. She didn't like that. And that made me really self-conscious," he told Buzzfeed. Later, Ricci told THR that although their romance was awkward, she and David got along great, thanks in part to their mutual love of sarcasm.
31. Amanda's final scene originally wasn't in the movie
According to Mercedes McNab, they had to add the brief shot of Amanda on the plane home with her family, because test audiences had been concerned that Wednesday had actually killed her during the play. "They didn't want kids watching the movie to think that because that obviously doesn't really look too good for them to be out there killing off children, no matter how awful the child is," the actress told Buzzfeed.
32. There's a Back to the Future reference here
The line "Dementia, what a beautiful name" can be viewed as a reference to Doc Brown's line in Back to the Future 3, "Clara, what a beautiful name." Of course, both the Doc and uncle Fester were played by Christopher Lloyd.
33. This is another horror reference
The shot of Debbie's undead hand shooting up out of the ground to shock Joel is an homage to the 1976 classic horror film Carrie.
34. Whoomp there Itt is
The credits song is a remix of the chart-topping one hit wonder Tag Team's Whoomp! (There It Is). The new version incorporated elements of the original Addams Family theme song, along with new lyrics, and was called "Addams Family (Whoomp!)" Christina Ricci and Jimmy Workman appeared in the music video. In 1994, the year following the film's release, Adams Family (Whoomp!) won the Razzie Award for worst original song.
35. Box office woes
Finally, although critics praised the sequel, it was less warmly received by the movie-going populace. It made around $49 million at the box office, well shy of the original's $113 million. Since then, however, it's become a cult favorite for '90s kids--especially around Thanksgiving.