"The Brady Bunch Movie"
Opened: February, 1995 | Rated: PG
The question you have to ask yourself is this: How much money would I pay to watch an rerun of "The Brady Bunch" on the Superstation? I think we all know the answer to that.
"The Brady Bunch Movie" is so much like the show, it's just like staying home. Everything is exaggurated for the sake of satire, and there are a surprizing number of good laughs, but in the end it's an NBC movie of the week filmed in 35mm.
The premise -- the Bradys are stuck in the '70s, but to the rest of the world it's 1995 -- is what keeps this movie from being a total groaner. But it's the movie's single joke -- over and over and over.
Some of the time the joke work, as when Marsha (Christine Taylor from Nickelodeon's "Hey, Dude") jumps back from a boy who kisses her shocked that he put his tongue in her mouth.
"It's called a french kiss," he says.
Flabergasted, Marsha says "I thought you were from Nebraska!"
But most of the time the audience sees the joke coming far too soon, as when the Brady's wood-panelled 1972 Ford station wagon is car-jacked. "My name's not Jack," Greg says. Umm...ho ho?
There are several running gags from the TV show played for satire, like middle sister Jan's (Jennifer Elise Cox) jealosy of her big sister ("Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!" she says bitterly as she stomps her foot on several occasions), and the dad's pep talks that end with the kids chorusing "I never thought of it that way."
Jan's inner voices that debate her behaviour, which were commonplace in the TV show, here are played like she may be mentally unstable, and Greg (Christopher Daniel Barnes) convincing himself of his future as a rock star.
The problem is it's only funny to someone who has seen the show -- maybe.
Television production values are also prominent, to provide futher connection with the show but the techniques don't translate well to film, even on purpose, and only succeed in making the movie look cheap.
Some of the attention to era detail is clever -- Mike Brady's nightstand book is "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" -- but the attempt to peg the Brady's in their element gets out of hand with a parade of cameos. The Monkees and half the cast from "The Brady Bunch" TV show pop up here and there.
In fact, this movie is swimming in washed-up television stars -- Shelly Long is Carol, Gary Cole ("Midnight Caller") is Mike, Michael McKean ("Dream On," "Saturday Night Live") is the not-so-nice next door neighbor and Jean Smart ("Designing Women") is his drunk, randy wife.
The focus on cameos seems to subsitute for plot (the storyline is a thowaway, something about raising money for taxes on the Brady house so the block can't be turned into a mini-mall), because they don't stop with TV stars -- Ru Paul is Jan's high school councellor and Eric Neise from MTV's "The Grind" is the host of a talent show at the local high school.
By the way, the picture was directed by another former TV star, Betty Thomas ("Hill Street Blues"), who has been directing television for years and has won a few Emmys, but this is her first feature film.
©1995 All Rights Reserved.