If the phrases “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” and “Oh, my nose!” hold no significance for you, you meet the first set of criteria indicating you should stay away from “The Brady Bunch Movie.”
If you remember the 1969-74 situation comedy but can’t imagine why anyone would spend time or money launching it onto the big screen, nothing in the film will change your mind.
That leaves those of us who, through the mind-numbing magic of after school reruns, literally grew up with this fictional clan of three boys, three girls, two parents, a maid and, sometimes, a dog. We couldn’t always identify with the tambourine-banging antics of life on the road with the Partridges but many experiences of the Brady kids cornily hit home with ‘70s suburban youth.
“The Brady Bunch Movie” does a campy - and eerie - job of re-creating the show’s characters and sets but largely just plunders old episodes for its gags, story (what story there is) and subplots.
The movie’s culture-clash premise has the action taking place today, but with the Bradys just as they were in the early ‘70s: constantly smiling, attired in bell-bottoms, spouting exclamations like “Groovy!” and “Far out!” Eldest son Greg isn’t threatening to come home with a pierced nipple; housekeeper Alice isn’t whipping up low-fat, iced cappuccino for Brady parents Mike and Carol. Instead, teen vanity (Jan feels “positively goofy” wearing her glasses!) and dating protocol (Marcia inadvertently makes two dates for the same night!) preoccupy the Brady youths.
The bigger picture has the Bradys fiercely holding on to their San Fernando Valley home despite some seriously overdue property taxes and neighborhood pressure to sell out to big business.
Something like “Wayne’s World,” for instance, didn’t need much story to generate plenty of laughs. Indeed, screenwriters of that 1991 hit worked on “The Brady Bunch Movie.”
But like middle sister Jan struggling for her identity, “The Brady Bunch Movie” isn’t quite sure what it wants to be. There are a few “Airplane!”/”Naked Gun”-style gags, broad physical humor, sexual double entendres more reminiscent of “Three’s Company” and jokes eked out of cliched supporting characters (Hey, it’s a titillating, alcoholic, sex-starved neighbor! And her arrogant, greedy land developer husband!). The tone is uneven, the pace not punchy enough.
There is some fun seeing polyester-perfect re-creations of the characters. Christine Taylor’s gleaming Marcia is a standout. TV veterans Shelley Long and Gary Cole capture the parental flavor nicely. There are a few charming guest cameos from those you’d expect, too.
The film is funniest when it pushes the envelope, toying with silly scenarios that warped minds come up with after seeing those old episodes one too many times. What if one of Marcia’s female friends developed a crush on her? What if the Brady kids struck up one of their bubble gum sing-alongs … during a trip to Sears?
Inevitably, though, we’re left pondering all the other possibilities for big screen Bradys. What about a gritty, “NYPD Blue”-style take on the show? Or some “Forrest Gump” special effects enabling the nice, ‘70s Bradys to meet their evil, ‘90s doppelgangers?
Maybe those are ideas Sherwood Schwartz, producer of the show and movie, can apply to his next threat, er, project: “Gilligan’s Island - The Movie.”
The bottom line for Brady fans: Despite potential cult appeal, “The Brady Bunch Movie” might simply leave you longing for the orange Formica and AstroTurf lawn of the original series. Crank up the VCR.
MEMO: This sidebar ran with story: “The Brady Bunch Movie” Location: Lincoln Heights, North Division and Coeur d’Alene cinemas. Cast: Directed by Betty Thomas; starring Michael McKean, Christine Taylor, Shelley Long, Gary Cole Running time: Approximately 105 minutes Rating: PG-13