The 1991 Addams Family movie, Christina Ricci’s debut as Wednesday, will leave Netflix on February 1.
By Nathan Kamal
Christina Ricci was only a child when she starred as Wednesday Addams in the 1991 film The Addams Familybut she instantly became a goth icon. The Barry Sonnenfeld adaptation of the cartoons by Charles Addams and the 1960s ABC sitcom became one of the biggest hits of the 1990s and cemented Christina Ricci’s image as a spooky, intense actress that would become her trademark. The Addams Family is leaving Netflix on February 1, so take the chance to watch it while you can.
The Addams Family stars Christina Ricci as Wednesday (so named for a 19th-century children’s rhyme that prophesizes “Wednesday’s Child is full of woe”), the eldest child in an extended family of cheerfully morbid weirdos in New Jersey. Years before the film, the family’s eldest male member Fester (Christopher Lloyd in ghoulish make-up) disappeared after a fight with his suave, passionate, and oblivious brother Gomez (Raul Julia). A mother (Elizabeth Wilson) and son pair of grifters hatches a scheme with Gomez’s lawyer (the great Dan Hedaya) to swindle the Addams by impersonating Fester, and mysterious and spooky, as well as altogether ooky, hijinks ensue.
While The Addams Family is an ensemble film, with each member of the family contributing to the comedically arch gothness, Christina Ricci is undoubtedly the breakout star of the film. Her portrayal of the deadpan, eerie Wednesday became the default representation of the concept of the Addams Family and the 1993 sequel Addams Family Values overtly positioned her as one of the most prominent characters with her own plotline in which she terrorizes a gratingly cheery sleepover camp.
The Addams Family was the directorial debut of Barry Sonnenfeld, who had previously served as the acclaimed cinematographer of films like Tom Hanks’ BigBilly Crystal and Meg Ryan’s When Harry Met Sally…and Nicolas Cage’s Raising Arizona. Reportedly, it was a difficult production, with health issues, special effects, and the declining fortunes of Orion Pictures making executives nervous about the expensive film-to-be.
The script for The Addams Family was written by Caroline Thompson and Larry Wilson, both of whom had separately collaborated with Tim Burton, who had declined to direct the film, as had Terry Gilliam. Apparently, the original story left it ambiguous whether Christopher Lloyd’s Fester imposter was actually the real thing with amnesia (from the Bermuda Triangle), but the cast lobbied for it to be made clear that he was the genuine article. Interestingly, the other actors nominated Christina Ricci (who had only been in two films before) to make the case to Sonnenfeld.
According to the director, the 10-year-old Christina Ricci made such an impassioned case for real Fester that the story was changed per her arguments. The movie became an enormous box office hit and revitalized the Addams Family brand for a new generation; it can be argued that Netflix’s enormously popular Wednesday series owes its existence to Christina Ricci’s charisma in the role. Ricci herself showed up as a new character in the series, because really, how could she not? She’s Wednesday and always will be.