Movies We Like
The Brady Bunch Movie
When I lived in Chicago there was this Johnny Rockets in the city’s “Gold Coast” area that had a painted mural near the entrance depicting an assortment of yuppie types seated at the diner’s counter enjoying milkshakes and hamburgers. I always thought it was kind of fascinating because the mural had clearly been painted sometime in the 1980s. One of the women depicted in the mural had kind of a big perm hairdo and her young son had on a sweater with an Esprit logo on it. I assume the mural was painted to showcase how a cross-section of then-modern society would have tons of fun hanging out in a fake '50s diner. Once the cultural attributes endemic to the 1980s started to look dated it gave that Johnny Rockets a doubly anachronistic atmosphere.
The Brady Bunch Movie has a similarly surreal kind of effect because the whole conceit behind the film is that standard comedy trope of the fish-out-of-water scenario wherein the Bradys and their perversely naive and dorky ways are transplanted from the 1970s sitcom world – where they belong – to the cynical world of mid-1990s Southern California. The film manages to serve as both a time capsule of '70s cheese and '90s-ness. In an ironic twist, the way the film depicts the “gritty” '90s as chock full of grungy attitude actually seems almost as quaint as the Bradys.
Most of the actors in The Brady Bunch Movie I have never knowingly seen in anything before or since. The exceptions would be Shelley Long (as Mrs. Brady) and Christine Taylor whom I know principally as the wife of Ben Stiller and from her one episode stint on Seinfeld. Everything about this movie – hello, Shelley Long –should ostensibly scream dumb, but for some reason it works and I think it’s totally hilarious.
Maybe the reason why I think it’s so funny is because in the film the Bradys are really weird and frequent objects of scorn to their community . Their neighbors see them with their bellbottoms, frequent group singing, and inability to not smile and suspect they are borderline retarded. Still, it’s never cruel. Marcia is dismissed as “harder to get into than a Pearl Jam concert” by a skuzzy slacker but he ends up getting his just desserts. No matter how square they look to us now they still win us over with their joy de vivre and simplistic problems. America loves the Bradys even though their family dynamic and love of group outings to Sears are unsettling to us all.