Brady Bunch Movie, The (United States, 1995)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

The Brady Bunch Movie, the natural culmination of a '90s revisionist Brady fad, is part homage and part parody. It takes the inimitable clan of eight and time-transports them, '70s attitudes and dress style intact, into 1995. Instead of being regarded as the perfect American family, they have become outcasts and weirdos.

Brady fans will find a lot of familiar things lurking throughout the film. The house has been recreated with excellent care to detail. The new actors resemble the old ones without being dead ringers. Literally hundreds of references to original episodes are included, from the "pork chops and applesauce" bit to Marsha's obsession with Davey Jones and Greg's attempts to become a rock singer. Those looking for a nostalgia injection will find it here, albeit with such a self-mocking tone that some of the truest die-hards may wince.

The problem with The Brady Bunch is that, satirical or serious, ninety minutes is too much. The first half-hour is clever, breezy, and amusing. The second half hour features a noticeable dip in the level of creativity and enjoyability. The final thirty minutes are a trial. Past the two-thirds mark, I found myself checking my watch almost constantly, scarcely able to believe how slowly the "action" was proceeding.

One of the questions just about everyone is bound to ask is whether there are any cameos by the original cast members. Without revealing precisely who, I can say that there are four (one of which happens so quickly that if you look away from the screen for a moment, you might miss it). Of course, with the uncanny knack that the new cast has for imitating their immortal predecessors, there's little need to keep looking for the likes of Florence Henderson.

The plot is typically Brady-like, with the nasty Mr. Ditmeyer (Michael McKean) attempting to buy the Brady house for use in a land deal he's cooking up. When the family has no interest in selling, Ditmeyer decides to use nefarious means. As the story progresses, we spend a little time with each of the family members. Mike (Gary Cole) gives long-winded, confused lectures about life's lessons. Carol (Shelly Long) smiles and acts the role of the perfect mom. Marsha (Christine Taylor) and Jan (Jennifer Elise Cox) engage in sibling rivalry, Cindy (Shelly Hack) gets taken to task for tattle-telling, Greg (Christopher Daniel Barns) tries to become Mr. Rock 'n Roll, Peter (Paul Sutera) copes with a changing voice, and Bobby (Jesse Lee) stands by and watches. Meanwhile, Alice (Henrietta Mantel) stays in the kitchen, baking dinner and waiting for Sam the butcher.

The Brady Bunch Movie almost works, primarily because its creators (one of whom is the TV series' originator, Sherwood Schwartz) manage to tread the fine line between irreverence and affection. Ultimately, however, the length is the film's undoing. No matter how tantalizing the premise, overexposure leads inevitably to boredom. The Brady Bunch Movie is good for a heavy dose of nostalgia and several hearty laughs, but not much more. And for those who didn't like the family in the first place, this will likely be only a step away from unbearable.

Brady Bunch Movie, The (United States, 1995)

Run Time: 1:29
U.S. Release Date: 1995-02-17
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Sexual Innuendo)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1