Have you ever wondered what it would be like if The Brady Bunch with their wholesome values and 70’s sensibilities were placed into the 90’s? Let’s be honest, you probably haven’t, but that is exactly the case in the hilarious 90’s film ‘The Brady Bunch Movie.’
It is mid 90’s America, Nirvana is in and The Monkees are out, that is unless you live in the Brady household. The Bradys seem to have stayed in the 70’s while the rest of the world has kept on moving (get it?); but they don’t seem to notice. Now, their next door neighbour, Larry Dittmeyer (Michael McKean), is not the typical friendly sitcom neighbour. Dittmeyer loathes the Bradys, especially since they are the only ones holding out on selling their house to make way for a new development which would leave Dittmeyer a wealthy man. Unfortunately, the Brady’s are informed that they owe $20,000 in unpaid property taxes and that if they don’t pay-up by the end of the week the state will auction their house, a plot that would easily fit in to any Brady Bunch episode. After Mike fails to sell two of his designs at the architecture firm he confides in Carol they may have to sell the house. However, after Cindy (who is having a problem with tattling) overhears this, the Brady kids get to work to try and keep their iconic home.
This film is absolutely hilarious. Whoever thought to set the film in the 90’s (the present when the film was released) is an absolute genius. The clash between decades is very entertaining. Not only this, but the movie perfectly parodies the series. Like when the kids perform ‘Keep On’ they too stop singing before the backing track (which they are lip syncing to) finishes, just like on the show. This affectionate parody also incorporates many other iconic moments from the show’s five season run.
All of the characters that you know and love can be seen in the film, except you may notice some differences. Greg (Christopher Daniel Barnes), no longer the big man on campus, is now a BMOC wannabe, chasing after the ladies without much luck (not that this gets him down). Also, although Jan (Jennifer Elise Cox) is still jealous of Marcia, this time it is brought on by her mental instability. Cox is excellent as schizophrenic Jan. The rest of the cast are the same old Brady’s. Marcia’s (Christine Taylor) is as perfect as ever, as she says herself she has “good looks and a winning personality”. Peter’s (Paul Sutera) at that stage where his voice was cracking. Bobby (Jesse Lee Soffer) is still Bobby and Cindy (Olivia Hack) still Cindy, lisp and all. And of course Mike (Gary Cole), Carol (Shelly Long) and Alice (Henriette Mantel) are all there watching over them. The way they parody the characters is fantastic. Some of my favourite parts are where Mike imparts his fatherly wisdom with ‘powerful’ statements like “As a wise man once said, wherever you go, there you are.” The film is really well cast with everyone being dead look-a-likes for their television counter parts. If you were just listening to the film you may even mistake Cole for Robert Reed.
Something clever in this film is how it feels like you are watching a sitcom, not a movie, whenever the scene is set at the Brady household. The lighting, backdrop, and camera shots make it feel like you are literally watching an episode of The Brady Bunch. However when the film takes us off the AstroTurf lawn we are taken into the real world and it no longer feels like a sitcom. In my opinion this adds to the comedic value of the film.
Not only does this movie incorporate iconic plots but it also incorporates iconic music from the show. You’ll see the Brady kids dance to “It’s a Sunshine Day” as they wander through a Sears department store, and as already mentioned perform “Keep On” in a talent contest. Davy Jones even makes an appearance and performs ‘Girl’ at the school dance, just like in the series, although this time ‘Girl’ is just a little bit grungy. And of course it wouldn’t be ‘The Brady Bunch Movie’ if it didn’t have the classic intro as well as those interludes.
There is not much about this film that I don’t like. The parody is hilarious, but importantly does not mock the show; instead it lovingly has fun with it. Setting it in the 90’s was a stroke of genius and I doubt it would have been anywhere near as funny if it had been set back in the 70’s. ‘The Brady Bunch Movie’ truly is a winning comedy and fitting homage to the show.
3 out of 4 Stars
The Brady Bunch Movie
Directed By: Betty Thomas
Produced By: Allan Ladd, Jr., David Kirkpatrick, Sherwood Schwartz
Written By: Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner, Laurice Elehawny, Rick Copp
Christopher Daniel Barnes
Jennifer Elise Cox
Jesse Lee Soffer
Music By: Guy Moon
Running Time: 90 Minutes
PG (Contains Coarse Language) (New Zealand)
PG-13 (United States)
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Images © Paramount Pictures