Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Brady Bunch Movie

Year 8, Day 73 - 3/13/16 - Movie #2,274

BEFORE: After 7 years and 2 months, I'm sort of at the point where there are just two types of movies left on the watchlist - the first type is recent films, like from 2013-2015, which make up over a third of the list, and the second is films that I just haven't gotten around to, which is often intentional, like with tonight's film.  I'm not a fan of the old TV show, though I did watch it when I was a kid, and based on what I know about the film, it's probably going to drive me buggy.  So I held off as long as I could, but it turns out that I can really use the film as a link to get me to the next set of films from the last couple of years.  So here goes, with Michael McKean carrying over from "The Big Picture".  

After this, I'm taking off for a few days on a road trip, but I still want to stay up on films, so I'll try to watch one film while away, and another as soon as I get back.  I'd stay up late and watch both "Brady" films before leaving, but wouldn't you know it, it's the weekend we start Daylight Savings Time, so I'm going to lose an hour's sleep - if I watch both films, I'll never wake up tomorrow in time to leave for Connecticut.  

THE PLOT:  The original '70s T.V. family is now placed in the 1990s, where they're even more square and out of place than ever.

AFTER: While my BFF Andy was in town, we took some time to record a podcast, and we talked about a lot of geek stuff - the new "Star Wars" film, for example, but also the Marvel Comics Universe in its post-"Secret Wars" state, and I think some of that conversation is relevant to understanding this "Brady Bunch" movie.  If you're in charge of a franchise, whether that's in movie or TV or comic-book form, there's an interest in keeping that franchise going, sometimes re-tooling or tweaking it for a new generation of fans.  They've done it for "Star Trek", "Battlestar: Galactica", and Disney does it every few years by thinking of a new spin to put on various fairy tales.  Everything seems to come around again eventually, even the stuff we don't really want to see, like Smurfs and those damn Chipmunks, because somebody who owns the franchise wants to squeeze some more cash out of it while entertaining America, ideally.  

So how can I fault the makers of "The Brady Bunch Movie" for doing in 1995, essentially, the same thing as J.J. Abrams did with "Star Wars" last year?  Namely, putting together a bunch of elements from the stories that had gone before, putting a new spin on them, and repackaging them in a way designed to please the old fans, and interest some new ones as well.  Hell, Marvel just shook up their whole universe, scrambled the superhero teams around a bit, destroyed the whole universe and put it back together, just like DC Comics had done three or four years before.  Which leads to a lot of questions about the comics I'm now reading - like, do these characters remember the universe being destroyed?  The adventures that were depicted before, did those still happen, or is it a new universe with new rules, and the past stories are not to be remembered or mentioned?  

The Bradys here seem to be stuck in the 1970's, but the world around them is clearly the 1990's - there's grunge music and high-school lesbians, shady real-estate deals and property tax liens, not to mention a transvestite school counselor and horny teachers, neighbors and teens.  But the family members (and Alice) are all oblivious to the present, their speech, clothing and attitudes all scream the floral, pastel 70's - so what am I supposed to make of that?  It's done for comedy's sake, of course, but is there supposed to be some kind of time-suspension bubble around their house?  Are they just out of step, or have they all been living in the same house for two decades without getting older or realizing that they're out of sync with the world?  The neighbors and other kids at school all think the Bradys are weird, but doesn't anyone notice that they're not aging, and the kids aren't moving forward and are repeating the same grades, year after year?  

OK, maybe the family is a bunch of genetic mutants that doesn't age, but that doesn't explain Alice, she's not related!  Or is this some kind of bizarre family cult, based on the meaningless platitudes and life lessons of Mike Brady?  Or, since we see key events from the TV show repeated - like Marcia being hit with the football, or Peter's voice changing, they must be in some kind of time-loop, doomed to repeat the same events over and over, with no memory of what has gone before, just those little life-lesson mantras to guide them through life, like the tattoos seen in the film "Memento".  Damn, I don't know which theory is correct, maybe I'm overthinking the whole thing, but these are the problems and situations that concern me.  I can't just turn off my brain and not worry about the Bradys, who are apparently stuck in this time-warp - wait, Mike Brady built the house, maybe it's some kind of TARDIS.  

(Don't laugh, I could be on to something.  If you remember the exterior shot they used to show of the Brady house on the old series, it doesn't match up with the interior, not at all.  I tried to build it once in a Sims game, and realized there's just no correlation between the inside and outside.  Plus the living room is, like, two stories high, and the upstairs bedrooms are over nothing, unless Alice had a 5-room suite.  Plus, in the later years, Greg had the attic bedroom in a two-story house, how is that even possible?  Try to figure out where the Bradys' front door is in relation to the kitchen, and you could go insane - the floor plan ends up looking like the architect was M.C. Escher, not Mike Brady...)

They even make a joke in the movie about how there are 9 people living there, and just one bathroom.  With no toilet, so now I'm back to the genetic mutants theory.  These are not real people with real human bodily functions, so maybe they're robots or clones or synthetic humans, that would also explain why they all have such a tough time understanding basic human relationships, especially sex (except for Mike and Carol, that is).  Oh, wait, there are jokes here about Alice and Sam, who comes over for a weekly "meat delivery".  Right.  

Like "The Big Picture", this film is nothing but self-referential.  There's no point where the audience is unaware that they're watching a movie, and this effect is compounded by the (let's say intentionally) bad acting.  I mean, really bad.  But if you push the bad acting far enough it can be over-the-top funny, like it was in "Airplane".  I get the drift, but it's just not my thing.  Of course the world changed a lot in two decades, and sometimes the 1970's and the 1990's feel like there's a century's worth of difference between them.  But still, I'm left wondering - are these Bradys aware at all that they're characters stuck in a time-warp?  And if not, then what the heck is wrong with them?  It feels like some kind of "Pleasantville" scenario, filtered through "The Twilight Zone".  

Also starring Shelley Long (last seen in "Hello Again"), Gary Cole (last seen in "One Hour Photo"), Christine Taylor (last seen in "The Craft"), Christopher Daniel Barnes (last heard in "The Little Mermaid"), Jennifer Elise Cox, Paul Sutera, Olivia Hack, Jesse Lee Soffer, Henriette Mantel, David Graf, Jean Smart (last seen in "The Odd Couple II"), Shane Conrad, Alanna Ubach, Marissa Ribisi (last seen in "True Crime"), Steven Gilborn (last seen in "He Said, She Said"), with cameos from Florence Henderson, Barry Williams, Ann B. Davis, Christopher Knight, David Leisure (last seen in "10 Things I Hate About You"), James Avery, David Proval (last seen in "Four Rooms"), RuPaul (last seen in "EdTV"), Davy Jones. 

RATING: 3 out of 10 pounds of ground round

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