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The Brady Bunch Movie

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Racy Innuendos)

Running Time: 88 minutes

Starring: Shelley Long, Gary Cole, Christine Taylor, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Jennifer Elise Cox, Paul Sutera, Olivia Hack, Jesse Lee, Henriette Mantel and Michael McKean

Written by: Laurice Elehwany & Rick Copp and Bonnie Turner & Terry Turner
Based on characters created by: Sherwood Schwartz

Directed by: Betty Thomas

 

Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $19.99

Features: None

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Stereo Surround, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (18 Scenes)

Released: June 10th, 2003

 

 

Time and time again I've ranted on this very site about television shows becoming full length films. Since most of you have probably heard this whole schpeal before, I'll spare you and cut right to the point: it's hard to adapt a television show into a feature length film since you have to please die-hard audiences and newcomers alike (not to mention stretching a twenty-two minute concept into ninety minutes). As we all know, most fail but there are few that succeed. "The Brady Bunch Movie" is one of those special movies to join the club, but the truth is that it's not your standard television show to be turned into a feature film. For one, this film debuted decades after the original show premiered (and years after the sequel shows and TV movie incarnations) and doesn't attempt to continue the series or anything of that nature. Rather, "The Brady Bunch Movie" is simply a remake of the show but with satirical undertones that capture - and sometimes mock - what the original "Brady Bunch" was all about (all in under 90 minutes!). Again, this is not your typical TV show coming to the big screen and believe it or not, it works quite well on a variety of different levels.

I remember when this movie came out in February 1995. It really did come out of nowhere. I remember seeing an ad on television one Saturday morning and had no idea that a "Brady Bunch" film was coming out. I was surprised, and at that point I was pretty sure that Hollywood was out of ideas for new movies. While I didn't have too much of a desire to see the movie, I ended up seeing it in the theater anyway (the first day it opened, actually, because I'm crazy that way). I was surprisingly entertained and laughed quite a bit so naturally, by the time I left the theater, I really enjoyed it (many also did too as the film became a sleeper smash, lending itself for a sequel 19 months later). This film exceeded my expectations by all means, and does rank as one of my favorite movies of TV shows that hit the big screen. Come to think of it, "The Brady Bunch Movie" probably set the stage for TV show to movie "updates" a la "Charlie's Angels" and the upcoming "S.W.A.T."

The film's plot is just as ridiculous and simple minded as any episode of the old television show, but I couldn't imagine it any other way. Basically, the Bradys are living in 1990s Los Angeles and their 60s-style charm, kindness and overally mentality seem to annoy everyone who crosses their path. This means that Larry Dittmeyer (Michael McKean), their next door neighbor, wants to take advantage of them so he can close a deal. Basically backstabbing the Bradys, the family now needs to earn quite a bit of money in a matter of days in back property taxes or else they'll lose their home. Can the Bradys save their beloved home? Will Greg pick up chicks? What about Marcia? What about Jan's jealousy? All of this and more is covered in this movie, but here's a hint: it ends just like a classic episode of the 60s sitcom.

"The Brady Bunch Movie" knows what it's doing and doesn't take itself seriously at all, and that's a reason why this movie succeeds. The film is credit to four writers (including Bonnie and Terry Turner, who also co-wrote another TV property to hit the big screen that was also released by Paramount - "Wayne's World") which is never a good sign if you ask me, but this film is a rare exception. The idea of the Bradys living in nasty, run-and-tumble Los Angeles is very appealing and comic gold thanks to their classic personalities. It's fun how the predicaments the Bradys get themselves into are very sitcom-like and incredibly tame but they still obsess over them like they are the biggest conflicts ever (just like in the original TV show). And it's even more fun in how those around them react (Marcia's guy troubles, anyone?).

You'd probably expect the jokes to be hit and miss in this movie, but they all hit their marks. While there are fun cameos (such as Florence Henderson and Davy Jones) to be found, the film constantly references memorable episodes of the TV series (some of which that are sure to fly over the heads of viewers) which is always fun. While there is some decent slapstick comedy to be found, what I have always enjoyed about the movie are the pretty racy tounge-in-cheek references that are very un-Brady like (such as same-sex attraction - I can only imagine what was cut) and the ridiculous situations the Bradys get themselves in to. These situations are pretty far-fetched, but their true to the original show and it's impossible to resist them. You just go along with them. Oh, and the film has witty, snappy dialogue and all the characters are so damn fun. And how can you NOT enjoy the climatic musical performance?

Betty Thomas, one of the most successful female directors out there, helmed the film and she did a rather remarkable job.The film moves at a fast pace, doesn't overdo the running jokes and never makes scenes last too long making the film more efficient and enjoyable. I'm also curious if she studied the TV show, because oddly enough, while some of the shots are inspired by the show or seem to be carbon copies, the film's editing and look doesn't feel standard or generic but rather unique. The production design from Steven Jordan and costume designs by Rosanna Norton are just as good. The Brady home, some of the sets and the clothing the Bradys wear are dead-on from what you'd see or expect from the television show. The color use is great and all of three of these craftspeople really capture the flavor of the original TV show.

The performances are pretty key in this movie, and everyone delivers. Forget the fact that most of the cast look pretty similar to their television counterparts, it's just that they really nail all the mannerisms and sensibilities. There are plenty of stand outs in this movie. Gary Cole and Shelley Long as Mike and Carol are just great. Long is too sugary sweet as Carol, but that's what the role calls for (you might want to brush your teeth for a long time after a viewing). Cole, one of the most underrated character actors out there, certainly shines as Mike with his cool sense of calmness and preaching. Christine Taylor and Christopher Daniel Barnes are capture the essence of Marcia and Greg while Jennifer Elise Cox (whatever happened to her!?) pretty much steals the movie as Jan. Michael McKean (one of my favorite funnymen) is also great in sneaky, asshole-villain mode and Jean Smart is pretty fun in a short but fun role as McKean's loner wife. Oh, and it's scary how much Henriette Mantel looks and sounds like Ann B. Davis.

"The Brady Bunch Movie" is a film that's fun for everyone be it casual comedy fans or die-hard followers of the original television series. It's enjoyable to watch, but if you're a bit familiar with the original show, then you're sure to get a little bit extra out of this entertaining film. Whether you watch this movie often or have never seen it, there's no denying it's superb fun that passes the time quite nicely.

 

"The Brady Bunch Movie" is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is anamorphically encoded. The film with all its wonderful production design and lots of 60s-esque colors is great, but this transfer is certainly not. Sad to say, this is one of the most disappointing Paramount transfers I've seen in a very long time and I have no idea what happened here. There's quite a lot wrong with the picture and it breaks my heart (well it does somewhat) since it really ruins a strong element (the visuals) that makes the film so cool.

I'll begin with the positive. There is no edge enhancment and most of the time, flesh tones look pretty good. That's about it. Color satuation looks to be somewhat off and is very inconsistent. Sometimes colors bleed and other times they look dull and never reach a true sense of being vibrant. Noise runs rampant throughout, as do edge halos. Some scenes look sharper than others, but for the most part, the film looks grainy, quite faded and at times really, really fuzzy (which is downright annoying if you ask me). Contrast is also really off and there are plenty of blemishes, nicks and scratches to go around (how I hate those). Hell, sometimes this film looks like if it's a work print. In the end, what should be a pretty and colorful transfer to represent the film comes off as dull and murky. Too bad.

 

"The Brady Bunch Movie" also features a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix in English, and it's really the only good and enjoyable part to this DVD other than the movie. While it's certainly not going to take your breath away and shatter your windows, the 5.1 mix is much more impressive than you'd probably expect. Fidelity is pretty high and dynamic range is very robust. But there is a very seamless blend of the dialogue, music and sound effects that don't overpower one another. Guy Moon's pitch-perfect score fills the channels nicely and brings you into the Brady's world, while the actual songs played in the movie bring a nice richness to it (especially the song the Bradys perform) and make good use of the subwoofer. Dialogue is crisp and easy to hear, and surrounds are pretty effective and creative such as the big finale where the Bradys race back to their home and Jan's inner thoughts. Overall, a suitable and well done mix. Also included is an English Dolby Surround mix, a French stereo surround mix, English subtitles and English closed captions.

 

Sadly, nothing at all. I would have enjoyed some interviews with the cast and crew, a featurette of some kind discussing the impact of "The Brady Bunch" on popular culture or something along those lines, but this is an empty release. There's also no commentary from director Betty Thomas, who has recorded commentary tracks in the past. I would have liked to hear her take on bringing this film to the big screen. Oh, and there were a few scenes cut before the film was released but clips of those scenes were shown in the original trailer (which is not even found here). I guess Sherwood Schwartz didn't want the Brady image to be tarnished at all?

 

"The Brady Bunch Movie" is just great, absurd fun and the film never lets down as the tone of everything is always perfect. The ensemble cast is great, the plot fits and the production design is stellar. The transfer is pretty bad, there are sadly no supplements but the 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is very enjoyable. Truth be told, some of us have been waiting quite a long time for this fun film to be released on DVD, and after what was a pretty long wait, this DVD is very disappointing and is not very satisfying at all. If you're a die-hard fan of the movie and want to own it on DVD then I'd say get it. Otherwise, I'll start praying that this film is a candidate to be re-released in the future by Paramount.