The 1990s saw a wave of Baby Boomer nostalgia, and along with that came the urge to turn old TV series into feature films. As its one of the most popular shows of all time, it seems like a no-brainer to bring "The Brady Bunch" to the big-screen. Yes, it probably seemed like a great idea at the time.
"The Brady Bunch Movie" is set in the hustle & bustle, cut-throat world of modern-day Los Angeles. And while the world has changed, the Brady's have not. They are seemingly stuck in a 70's time-warp, and they display all of the fashion-sense and moral values which were such a big part of the TV show. They interact with the world around them, but don't quite understand why everyone else is so different.
In the film, evil real estate agent Larry Dittmeyer (Michael McKean) wants to buy the Brady's house that he can turn the block into a strip-mall. But, Mike (Gary Cole) and Carol (Shelley Long) Brady have no interest in selling their house. Those plans change when the family is suddenly slapped with a bill for $20,000 in back property taxes. The Brady kids, Greg (Christopher Daniel Barnes), Marcia (Christine Taylor), Jan (Jennifer Elise Cox), Peter (Paul Sutera, Bobby (Jesse Lee), and Cindy (Olivia Hack), attempt to form a plan to get the money and save the house.
The idea of setting "The Brady Bunch Movie" in a modern world in which the Brady's don't fit is a stroke of genius. Unfortunately, that's the only real joke in the movie. The rest of the film is simply rehashings of situations and plot-points from the TV show. As each "idea" is revealed (the need for money, Marcia's nose, Jan's wig), the viewer can almost feel the movie nudging you in the ribs saying, "Huh, remember that from the show, huh?" Of course we remember them. It wasn't all that funny then and it's not that funny now. To be fair, there are some funny moments in the film, most of which involve Mike Brady somehow, but overall the movie feels like a wasted opportunity. And to think, it took four writers to make this mess.
The lame script and pedestrian direction from Betty Thomas aside, the one real bright spot in the film is the casting. If the filmmakers had spent half-as-much time on the script as they did on finding the perfect actors for the roles, the movie may have been great. Gary Cole is perfect as Mike Brady. He has mastered Robert Reed's cadence and his speeches are hilarious. The usually annoying Shelley Long is great as Carol, bringing the needed wide-eyed innocence to the role. Of the kids, Christine Taylor and Christopher Daniel Barnes are very good, both being able to simultaneously mimic and lampoon the actors who originally played Greg and Marcia. The brilliant Michael McKean is nearly wasted as Larry Dittmeyer.
Despite my misgivings for the film, "The Brady Bunch Movie" was a hit, so it's surprising that Paramount Home Entertainment hasn't taken more care with its DVD release. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp, but there is a noticeable amount of grain on the image throughout the film. Also, there are many minor, yet visible, defects from the source print, such as black & white specks. It's almost like the print wasn't cleaned before the transfer. On the plus side, the colors are very good, which is a must, given the Brady's garrish costumes.
This disc features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, which leaves much to be desired. The dialogue is clear and the songs sound good, but the track sounds very hollow. Switching over to the Dolby 2.0 Surround track which is also on the disc demonstrates the lack of richness in the 5.1 track. Bass response on the 5.1 track is limited and the surround and stereo effects are quite weak.
There are no extras whatsoever on this DVD.
The makers of "The Brady Bunch Movie" decide to exploit the popularity of the TV show by making knowledge of the show an integral part of the film. But, in doing so, they've created a one-note movie that lacks any real substance, and offers only a few laughs.