‘The Brady Bunch Movie’ Is a ’90s Period Piece Now
The Brady Bunch Movie had a revolutionary concept for a remake of a classic TV show: leave the Bradys in their ‘70s sitcom but let them loose in the ‘90s. 25 years after the film opened on Feb. 17, 1995, The Brady Bunch Movie is now as much a period piece of ‘90s culture as the original TV show is of its era.
‘The Brady Bunch Movie’ stood out from TV remakes in the ‘90s
In the ‘90s, making movies based on TV shows was what making superhero movies is now. The ‘80s had Twilight Zone: The Movie and Dragnet reimagined as a comedy, but the ‘90s seemed to be when most studio executives, and audiences, were itching to revisit old TV shows. Some of the biggest hits of the ‘90s were The Addams Family, The Fugitive, Wayne’s World, George of the Jungle and Mission: Impossible.
They also made movies of The Beverly Hillbillies, Richie Rich, Dennis the Menace and some far less successful ones like Car 54, Where Are You?, The Mod Squad, The Avengers and Wild Wild West. That’s not even counting still running shows like The X-Files and Beavis and Butt-Head having big screen adventures while their shows were still on the air.
Most of the movies were fairly faithful retellings of the shows with new casts. Comedies like The Addams Family were still comedies. The Fugitive could be a bigger action-adventure in 1993. Only The Brady Bunch contrasted the show with the modern era.
‘The Brady Bunch Movie’ satirizes the show
There is a somewhat faithful Brady Bunch remake in The Brady Bunch Movie. Whenever the Bradys are at home, they have all the artifice of a studio soundstage and all the wholesomeness of a family sitcom. Mike Brady (Gary Cole) issues convoluted morality lessons and Carol (Shelley Long) “yes, dears” her husband in an era long past women’s liberation.
There is a modern day plot to the movie, but the Bradys still have their sitcom plots interwoven with reality. Marcia (Christine Taylor) has two dates at the same time. Bobby (Jesse Lee) takes his job as safety inspector very seriously. The whole family needs $20,000 to pay overdue property taxes that got lost in the mail.
They repurpose some plots from the sitcom too. Of course, they had to do Marcia’s broken nose. Greg (Christopher Daniel Barnes) tries to become the rock star Johnny Bravo. Jan (Jennifer Elise Cox)’s middle child syndrome is a highlight of The Brady Bunch Movie. 1995 was simply not ready for potato sack races.
‘The Brady Bunch Movie’ satirizes the ‘90s too
Plopping the sitcom in the middle of the ‘90s satirizes the show through the modern lens. It also satirizes the ‘90s through the Brady lens. The Bradys venture out of their sitcom, unphased by the cynical 1995 world.
The Bradys are oblivious to modern sexuality when Marcia’s date Doug (Shane Conrad) assures them he has protection. Likewise, Marcia is oblivious to Noreen (Alanna Ubach)’s sexuality because the world Marcia comes from could never address LGBTQ issues on TV in the’ 70s. Those situations more lead to fun double entendres at the Bradys’ expense.
Most of the blatant ‘90s elements are artifacts now: The giant car phones, bouncing hydraulic cars, fear of carjackings. The ultimate message is the happiness of the Bradys triumphs. It doesn’t matter what year it is. Joy is better than cynicism.
The future of TV movies is now
The Brady Bunch Movie was not the first or the last movie based on a TV show. In fact, a year and a half later, they released A Very Brady Sequel. With the “sitcom vs. ‘90s” dynamic already established, Brady Sequel could go even further with Brady gimmicks, double entendres and sitcom plots.
Other films tried ambitious ways to adapt a TV show. It didn’t work when Bewitched became a movie about making a remake of Bewitched that turns into Bewitched itself. It totally worked when they turned teen cop drama 21 Jump Street into a comedy. Likewise the two McG Charlie’s Angels.
Even though the third Brady movie went back to television, Brady mania hasn’t stopped as A Very Brady Renovation took them to reality TV. If they really want to get meta, they should make The Brady Bunch Movie Movie and have the stars of the 1995 movie still playing their ‘70s characters but having gotten used to the ‘90s and having to adjust to the 2020s.