Natural Born Reviewers | The Brady Bunch Movie

Brady Bunch Movie1Of the films out there based on TV shows, The Brady Bunch Movie (1995) ranks as one of the good ones in a sea of uninspired drivel. It works on the same principle as The Addams Family (1991), where the central family occupies their own bubble and everyone around them is “normal.” The Bradys are oblivious to how people perceive them and are often dangerously naive, setting up endless comedic payoff. After blowing their savings on trips to The Grand Canyon and Hawaii (in previous reunion specials, if Liamfer’s memory serves), the Brady Bunch unexpectedly needs to raise $20k to save their house.

Brady Bunch1

Liamfer: It is so difficult to convince people “No, really, it’s funny!” that I sometimes forget this is one of my favorite films. I didn’t like The Brady Bunch TV series as a kid, I never saw the spin-offs or reunion specials, so my enjoyment of this film comes from the irony and parody. It’s like the funnier blend of The Addams Family (1991) and Blast from the Past (1999) — the comedy comes from the exaggerated idealism of 1970s television contrasted by the sarcastic pessimism of 1990s Los Angeles. This blend works as unexpectedly well as Johnny Cash covering Nine Inch Nails, Metallica performing with the San Francisco Symphony, or Davy Jones backed by a grunge band.

Marnifer: I hated The Brady Bunch show and I’m not sure I’ve ever made it through an entire episode — though due to culture saturation I am quite familiar with the show’s tropes. I was sort of avoiding the film because I couldn’t imagine it being funny. Happily I was wrong and did nothing but laugh from beginning to end. The key to its successful comedy is that while the movie is winking at you, the actors play it completely straight-faced and deliver some of the funniest and most ridiculous dialogue with pure sincerity. This could have easily been a bad SNL movie (or skit), but the expertly-crafted parody gets the tone, aesthetic and parlance spot-on while at the same time making complete fun of the show.

Liamfer: My favorite scene in this film begins, “Put on your Sunday best, kids. We’re going to Sears!” The Bradys then horrify the shoppers with a choreographed routine while singing “It’s a Sunshine Day.” Hilarity ensues. By the end of the song I was laughing so hard I needed to pee, but could not tear myself from the screen until the film ended.

Brady Bunch Sears

Marnifer: The design and costuming are outstanding. They replicated the original kitchen and indeed the rest of the house at well. The clothes and hair are as ugly as ever, and they even included the AstroTurf lawn. (Which is directly referenced in a great scene where the neighbors discuss how weird the Bradys are.) They even use the same xylophone strum and revolving-door-style wipe transitions for countless scenes.

Liamfer: For fans of the TV show out there, the film includes plenty of cameos (such as the original Peter showing up to stop the younger Peter from being bullied) and recreated scenes from the original (such as Marcia breaking her nose before the big dance).

Marnifer: Maureen McCormick, the original Marcia, is noticeably absent. The wiki page lists her erroneously; she doesn’t appear in the film. Maybe she was afraid that Christine Taylor might swallow her soul, having already assumed her appearance. Seriously, she’s like her doppelganger.

Brady Bunch Movie Taylor vs McCormick
Christine Taylor on the left, Maureen McCormick on the right

The Alice scenes are a bit painful. The puns she delivers burned my brain. However there’s a late scene with her in a costume that’s worth the price of admission. Michael McKean as next-door neighbor and main antagonist is at his prickish best, and Jean Smart as his perma-drunk wife is not to be missed. Watch for RuPaul (swoon!) as Jan’s guidance counselor, and of course the great Gary Cole as Mike Brady.

Liamfer: Noreen (Alanna Ubach) is my favorite character in this film, Marcia Brady’s best friend. In one of the best examples of “Show, don’t tell” it is never stated that Noreen is a lesbian with unrequited obsession for Marcia Marcia Marcia, but their dynamic is clearly established in less than one second. She is ridiculously cute and expressive, showing so much comedic talent that I wonder why she doesn’t have her own tv show.

Brady Bunch Movie Noreen1

Marnifer: Noreen is definitely fabulous. For me though, the one who really shines is Jennifer Elise Cox as perpetually overlooked middle sister Jan. Cox’s performance is so funny, and she reminded me a lot of Kids in the Hall’s Bruce McCulloch. They have very similar facial contortions and expressions. Jan’s growing frustration and her jealousy of Marcia manifest as voices in her head, and Cox plays the fun crazy to perfection.

Brady Bunch Movie Jan

The plot is constructed in the style of classic episodes, but the story isn’t really that important. You’re here to see the Bradys navigate and misinterpret the world like Mr. Magoo without his glasses, sailing through harm unscathed. Add to that their special brand of chipper and you get an upbeat comedy that’s both silly and satisfying.

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One thought

  1. By the way, there are people like the Brady Bunch: Shewmaker-Cansler families. Ambers O’Neal Shewmaker/Cansler gave his life saving a woman and his mother (Shewmaker) had two children from a first marriage and his stepfather (Cansler) had two children from a first marriage. Not bad for a hero from the Cansler bunch!

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