The Brady Bunch Movie (1995) / Comedy-Musical

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for racy innuendos
Running Time: 90 min.

Cast: Christine Taylor, Gary Cole, Shelley Long, Michael McKean, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Jennifer Elise Cox, Jean Smart, Olivia Hack, Paul Sutera, Jesse Lee Soffer, Henriette Mantel, David Graf, Jack Noseworthy
Cameo: Florence Henderson, David Leisure, Barry Williams, RuPaul, Davy Jones, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork, Christopher Knight, Ann B. Davis
Director: Betty Thomas
Screenplay: Laurice Elehwany, Rick Copp, Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner
Review published May 24, 2010

The Brady Bunch Movie is just one of many big screen adaptations of beloved television shows of days gone by that recaptures the spirit of the original show, all the while making fun of it throughout for being dated and silly by today's standards.  There is a plot, insipid and mostly ignored for long stretches, involving a greedy real estate agent (McKean (Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Earth Girls Are Easy) who happens to be their next-door neighbor) who deeply desires to see the Bradys move out so that he can cash in on a new mall to be developed for the area.  The Bradys owe $20,000 in unpaid taxes, and have a deadline to come up with the money or be forced to leave their beloved home.

Anyone who has seen the television show knows the basic plot. Mike Brady (Cole, In the Line of Fire) is a divorced father of three boys named Greg (Barnes, "Day by Day"), Peter (Sutera, Problem Child 2), and Bobby (Soffer, Matinee).  He meets and later marries a divorced mother, Carol (Long, Caveman), and she brings into their family home her three daughters, Marsha (Taylor, The Craft), Jan (Cox, "10 Items or Less"), and Cindy (Hack, Star Trek: Generations).  The member of the bunch who isn't part of the family is their maid Alice (Mantel, I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With).  The television show often captured some innocuous fun at one of the kids' expense, usually dealing with some tribulation of being a kid, followed by wise words from the patriarch about a valuable lesson learned from their foibles.

The movie pretty much captures the show in terms of its spirit, its characters, and the early 1970s fashions, but makes the characters more one dimensional, exaggerating what they're known for to score some satirical laughs.  Marsha is ultra-vain, Jan is ultra-jealous, Cindy is a lispy tattletale, etc.  Each of them is basically just a familiar character trait of the original cast portrayed by a lookalike actor.  Along these lines, it's fun and amusing for fans not expecting a faithful re-enactment of the show.  And though smaller roles for RuPaul and The Monkees might seem out of place, the cameos from the original cast will delight.

Not unlike other TV comedies that are made into big theatrical releases, the spin on the story is that the Brady Bunch is still stuck as they were on the television show, except living in the less groovy times of the mid-1990s.  I'm guessing that in the initial conceptual phase for the movie, it was thought that a good source for the comedy would come from seeing just how out of place the family would seem if they had to deal with the metal-heads, overt sexuality, and more lurid aspects of society outside of their sheltered, wholesome existence.  If you've ever wanted to see what the Brady Bunch might do during attempted carjackings or lesbian come-ons, this movie explores those things and more.

The laughs are mostly mild, playing more to the fans than it does to typical moviegoers. Unlike the TV series, the film is PG-13 for a wide assortment of subtle sexual innuendo that most kids may not pick up on anyway (Mike asks visiting lothario Sam the Butcher (Graf, Police Academy 5) what he's doing in the house in the middle of the night: "Delivering some meat.")  If you're unfamiliar with the show, I'd say most of the jokes will fly completely over your head, limiting the film's appeal strictly to those who've grown up on the series, or just people who enjoy bright, energetic, and campy comedies.  But, if you're a fan, it captures the look and sweet-natured silliness of the original show that you've come to embrace, while also knowingly giving it a few playful jabs for its old-fashioned attitudes that its fans also find part of its appeal.

-- Followed the next year by A Very Brady Sequel (1996) and a made-for-TV sequel The Brady Bunch in the White House (2002)

Qwipster's rating:

©2010 Vince Leo