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A Very Brady Sequel

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Sex-Related Humor and Some Drug Content)

Running Time: 89 minutes

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

Screenplay by: Harry Elfont & Deborah Kaplan and James Berg & Stan Zimmerman
Story by: Harry Elfont & Deborah Kaplan
Based on characters created by: Sherwood Schwartz

Directed by: Arlene Sanford

 

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 (23 Scenes)

Released: June 10th, 2003

 

 

When "The Brady Bunch Movie" came out in 1995, it seemed that no one expected it to be a breakout success and no one realized that people still had an interest in one of television's favorite families. While the film didn't break records at the box office, it did a whole lot better than people anticipated (and the reviews weren't too bad either). With its silly look at the Bradys living in 1990s society all topped with your convential sitcom plot, it was an entertaining and charming flick that was pretty hard to resist. With that said, a sequel seemed inevitable. So toward the end of the summer of 1996, the aptly titled "A Very Brady Sequel" came out. The film flopped.

It can be pretty hard to predict the success of movies. A film can have all the hype in the world and still bomb while some films that come out of nowhere take audiences by storm. But like always, timing is the key to everything. Still, given the success of the first movie, it seemed natural the sequel would do pretty well and get a decent turn out (many critics actually liked the sequel better than the first). It was released at a pretty slow time for movies too. Just as the first was released during the usually slow month of February, the sequel saw a late August release where the summer film season was winding down. The sequel took in a bit less than half than what the original did, even if it did take in a very slight profit thanks to its very low budget. And for whatever reason, the sequel never really found an audience on video or television. It's a shame, since the sequel deserved just as much success as the first one.

So once again, the Bradys are coping in 1990s Los Angeles with their 1960s sense of style and mentality. Everything seems to be going well. Mike (Gary Cole) is planning to renew his vows with Carol (Shelley Long) for their wedding anniversary. But then things get awkward when Carol's first husband, thought to be long gone, Roy (Tim Matheson) steps into the picture and becomes some strange father figure of sorts - almost as if he's the anti-Mike. Carol's conflicted, but is Roy really who he says he is? Do his intentions have something to do with a special, rare horse statue the Bradys happen to own? And what the hell is going on with Greg (Christopher Daniel Barnes) and Marcia (Christine Taylor)?

Many actual prefer this movie over the first, but I'm not sure which Brady movie I like better. They're both a lot of fun and pretty hilarious if you ask me. There are some things I like in the first movie better and there are some things I like in this one better. Don't get me wrong, this one is very ridiculous too, but it seems "Brady Bunch" creator Sherwood Schwartz was more leniant to explore some other things the first film only hinted at. While I wouldn't exactly call this film "darker," it is riskier and perhaps even weirder (but not to the point where it completely alienates the audience). There are more timely references to the Bradys themselves such as the Magic Mushroom sequence and then there's the whole incest thing between Greg and Marcia. The film makes it somewhat disturbing and fans of the movie make a big deal about it to this very day, but when you think about it, it's pointless since these "siblings" aren't directly related at all.

The whole original cast of the movie is back here and they're in full form. Shelley Long was still the perfect choice to play Carol, as her supposedly perfect world is turned upside down in this one. She's sweetly conflicted and she's damn good at playing the character. Gary Cole still rocks as Mike, and he's conflicted this time too (and his preaching about family is still enjoyable). Christopoher Daniel Barnes and Christine Taylor show chemistry and get hot and heavy, while Jennifer "where did I go?" Elise Cox is still a joy to see as Jan. The other Brady kids - Jesse Lee, Paul Sutera and Olivia Hack seem to be featured a bit more in this movie and are wonderful. We also have Henriette Mantel who's flawless as Alice and Tim Matheson as Roy, who's deliciously devious and wonderfully cynical making him a strong Brady villain (i.e. one who tears apart the family).

Still, what impressed me the most about "A Very Brady Sequel" was its quality. Even though you have four different writers this time (including the platonic duo of Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan who'd later go on to make the teen movies "Can't Hardly Wait" and "Josie and the Pussycats") and a different director, the film is consitent - no wait, it's directly in unison - with the first movie. That is certainly a rare thing to pull off, but this film is proof that it can be done. You'd really expect some kind of major difference with a different director and different writers on board, but they really make a strong continuation and even improve the content at times. Maybe it actually has something to do with Sherwood Schwartz, Alan Ladd Jr. (who was an executive producer on the first movie) and Lloyd J. Schwartz producing again.

It's not that Arlene Sanford, most notable for her vast television directing credits, plays it safe. To be honest, I'd be really curious about her approach to directing this movie. She does thrust the movie into different directions and expands it to be not just fun, but more emotionally complex (yes, there is some depth in this movie!) as she intertwines some of the characters. There's also the more racy jokes and very wacky turns of the story. Sanford is not afraid to push the limits but doesn't cross the line, which is essential with characters like the Bradys. It's as if she has them explore the common themes in people and trends of the 1990s more, and has some characters become less naive but still have them resort to the conformity they all love. And like Betty Thomas before, the film moves at a snappy pace and nothing is really overdone. It looks pretty similar to the first movie actually, which I liked (and perhaps there are some nicer visual tricks here and there and a cleaner editing style). While who knows if Sanford studied episodes of the show or the first movie, I'm sure it helped that the same director of photography (Mac Ahlberg), composer (Guy Moon) and costume designer Rosanna Norton returned (but there's a new production designer in tow with Cynthia Carette who does a very nice job).

Then there's the writing which is excellent. The script tackles a question fans are interested in (Carol's long lost husband) so there's a lot to play on that (with that said, you got to love the final joke that ends the movie). And just like the first movie, all the jokes hit and there are no misses. You have your obscure references to the television show that many still won't exactly get as well as typical running gags that are still fun, even if some of them were in the first movie. But then you have the more wacky humor (the trip to Hawaii seems sitcom like too but is pulled off in an interesting, ingenious way - and didn't the Bradys already go to Hawaii on episodes of the show?), more deadpan humor, drug references, more sex-related jokes, more jealousy (Jan's fake boyfriend is downright hilarious and is certainly situation comedy-esque) and more of the Bradys coming to grips with the 1990s even if their sweet nature and naivity does impact corrupt people for the better. And then you have your 1960s and 1970s themes too that seem like right out of an episode of the show (particuarly, the battle of the sexes). It might all sound crazy, but just like the first movie, all of its absurdity works surprisingly well and the tounge-in-cheek tone never shifts (such as getting a serious speech and then instantly a wacky scenario). The plot and overall story are well constructed, the subplots fit and tie in with things nicely and the dialogue for the Bradys would perfectly fit in any old episode of the TV show while the dialogue for the contemporary characters is natural.

Nothing comes up short in "A Very Brady Sequel" as it's yet another entertaining ride that's also really funny with the Bradys. The film is slightly edgier but stays very true to what made the first movie so great. While I thought some of the jokes and concepts were much better and more concise here, I still don't have a preference over either film (maybe what I liked about the first film better than this was that it was refreshing and not what I expecting, and some of that factor was gone for the sequel). The film scores a triple rarity: it's a sequel that matches and slightly surpasses the original, it has different writers and a different director and it still works and finally it's a sequel to a movie based on a television show, something you really never get to see. Nonetheless, this film failed to shake up the box office and the cast is now pretty old, so a third film seems doubtful (though Gary Cole and Shelley Long played the roles again on a recent Fox TV movie about the Bradys as a presidential family - no joke!). Too bad. I'm sure the third would have been the best or at least as good as the first two.

 

"A Very Brady Sequel" also features a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, just like the first movie. While it's not perfect, it does look nicer than the transfer for the first movie (which I hated) and captures the colors and overall aura of the film's visuals a bit better. There is no edge enhancment, but scratches, blemishes, nicks and other little flaws on the print remain. Flesh tones are decent and color saturation is better, while detail is fine. The film is still grainy, but it doesn't appear too soft but it is faded in some spots. Some scenes look really rough for whatever reason, but the main problem is that the contrast seems to be on way too high that gives off a very artifical look, not to mention lots of noise and edge halos. It should be pretty obvious that all of this doesn't look good when the flaws mix together. Better than the first film on DVD, but given what the film offers in the visual department, it's a weak and disappointing transfer.

 

"A Very Brady Sequel" sports an English 5.1 Dolby Digital mix that is very nice and is definitely equal to the first film's 5.1 mix. Once again, there's a strong balance between the surround effects, music and dialogue. While the dialogue is easy to hear and sounds clear, at times I thought it sounded pretty hollow and that was a little distracting. But it's not that bad, as fidelity is decent and the dynamics are pretty strong which really enrapture you back to the (usually) squeaky-clean world of the Bradys. The songs in the movie sound nice and fill up the channels and have great power (such as the one in the drug trip), while Guy Moon delivers another score that fits flawlessly into the movie and sounds very good. There are more active surrounds in this movie that sound nice too and add a few punches that make it even more lively and heavy, such as a certain Brady's violent turn with nunchucks and quite a few antics that could only occur in Hawaii. The .1 LFE also gets a little action too, but nothing overly exciting or aggressive. In all, a good and strong mix that represent the movie. The DVD also has an English Dolby Surround mix, a French stereo surround mix, English subtitles and English closed captions so enjoy those if you need them.

 

Sadly, nothing at all (just like the first movie). And yes, there was a trailer for this movie. Why isn't it here?

 

"A Very Brady Sequel" is a rare sequel that lives up to the original, and in some areas, surpasses it. While the sound mix is on track with the first movie and the transfer is slightly better than the transfer of the first (which was a monstrosity), the lack of supplements is once again disappointing. Still, the film is at a decent $19.99 retail price meaning you can snag it for cheaper. While I hope both Brady films will be re-released in the future with better transfers and some actual supplements, this will have to suffice if you pick it up.