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REVIEW: The Brady Bunch in the White House

Brady Bunch in the White HouseDirected by: Neal Israel
Produced by: Armand Leo, Lloyd J. Schwartz
Written by: Lloyd J. Schwartz, Hope Juber
Edited by: Terry Stokes
Cinematography by: Robert Seaman
Music by: Laurence Juber
Starring: Shelley Long, Gary Cole, Chad Doreck, Autumn Reeser, Blake Foster, Ashley Eckstein, Max Morrow, Sofia Vassilieva, Tannis Burnett, Saul Rubinek, Reagan Pasternak, Dave Nichols, Joshua Peace, Noah Danby, Jef Mallory
Based on the TV series The Brady Bunch
Year: 2002

 

The following review was originally conceived as an impromptu Facebook rant after I decided to watch this movie out of boredom while browsing Netflix, so if this review seems kind of random, it was. It wasn’t long before I realized, however, that I’d essentially written an impromptu movie review instead, so I took it and punched it up a bit and decided to publish it officially instead.

I think I just watched one of the most bafflingly horrendous movies I’ve ever seen – The Brady Bunch in the White House. The first two movies that took the characters and placed them in the 90s weren’t exactly comedy masterpieces, but they were pretty witty and smartly put together satires of the original show’s absurdity by mostly having the wholesome characters be unchanged and defiantly unfazed by the explicit realities of the then-modern world (save for Alice, who, as an honorary Brady, was given a bit more of an edge). It was a fairly clever concept, dodging the pitfalls that most other TV-to-movie adaptations succumb to, and even on an artistic level, those movies got everything just right: a near perfect cast, the musical cues, the sitcom style camera angles, the kitschy costumes and sets, and just enough heightened reality to let you know the people making it were doing it all in good fun while making it tolerable and enjoyable for all people, regardless of whether or not they actually liked the original show. (I hated it.) This third film, though…

Brady Bunch in the White House - Musical number...

This putrid, made-for-TV piece of excrement has absolutely zero redeeming qualities and doesn’t seem to understand anything about what made the first two theatrical releases work. It bludgeons you repeatedly with its stupidity and doesn’t stop until you are just very nearly numb to the pain, at which point it then cruelly holds back so that you can continue to writhe on the ground in agony, wondering why your appreciation of the first two films has been rewarded with this cruel betrayal. It’s like the writers of this didn’t get that if you’re going to follow up those two films with a third, you need to actually keep everything tonally similar – keep everything not connected to the Bradys as being from a completely different plane of existence from the baffled onlookers of the real world they’ve somehow crossed over into. Instead, EVERYBODY in this movie operates on the same level of sitcom ridiculousness. Sure, they might at first react in confusion when the Bradys, say, break out into a variety show style song about the glory of America and patriotism, but it’s then played off as if it’s merely a solution to their problem they never considered before and then clap along in solidarity with the Bradys. This might work in small doses or even as a finale, where the strange but endearing characters have triumphantly earned the trust of the people, but it’s instead basically the setup for every single scene! There’s no freaking conflict in the concept they’ve gone with!

Brady Bunch in the White House - The villains

 

This is a movie where Mike Brady is able to happen into the Presidency merely because he’s honest and goes off on nonsensical moral ramblings, and everyone is thrilled with it except for the villains, who want the presidency themselves and devise a plan that involves convincing the Bradys (and the world) of a fake asteroid strike that would end humanity, thereby placing them into a bunker, where the Bradys then happily say goodbye to the people who they openly acknowledge would be obliterated in a freaking extinction level event – Mike even tells someone they can’t come in when they wish to express their gratitude for his service, so it’s not even like the movie can keep the characters in character, despite Gary Cole reprising his role, albeit with a detached, very embarrassed performance. (This asteroid scenario also provides the film with a brief opportunity to explore that whole Greg/Marcia mutual attraction thing from the second film for all of 5 seconds, making the joke basically, “Hey, remember this hilariously awkward storyline from the second film?… Yeah, us too.”) That’s not a funny setup! That’s just a really shitty episode of a really shitty sitcom! Where’s the @$!*ing joke!?

Brady Bunch in the White House - Have fun dying.

Of course, whenever the movie does attempt to contrast the original show’s censored and sentimental ridiculousness with something more edgy, it does so by just being out and out nasty about it. I’m talking freaking adult predators peaking in on teenage Marcia while she’s dressing and then PURPOSELY putting themselves into a situation where they can touch her! I mean, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT!? The original movies did have some of that, what with Peter and his sex ed teacher and the frustrated and always drunk wife next door or the villain in the second lusting after Marcia despite impersonating her father, but it was mostly suggestive and acknowledged the inappropriate and awkward nature of those relationships, which is where the comedy was derived from, not from the actual acts themselves. There’s a subtle but crucial distinction between that and where the humor is intended to be coming from. Here, the attempts at humor are derived from purposely falling onto the Marcia just to touch her, and it’s played off as guys just being guys. And that’s apparently the joke!… Yeah, it’s pretty disgusting!

Brady Bunch in the White House - The creeps

… Not creepy at all.

 

This movie can’t even seem to get the look and feel right, with strange camera angles, pans, and zooms that don’t look remotely attempt to capture the sitcom look, and the soundtrack is startlingly, distractingly aggressive with its tone deaf, distorted electric guitar. It’s baffling how this ever got made. Did Fox not realize what a waste of money this was!? This whole movie is a disgusting waste! It wastes both Shelley Long and Gary Cole, who are trying their best to bring back that same spark they had the first two times around, but the script gives them absolutely nothing to work with here, and you can practically see the enthusiasm drained from their faces as the filmmakers carried on, dragging their limp bodies along the way. This movie wastes what was once a clever and entertaining movie series, dumping every other cast member for budgetary reasons, sure, but also for the studio not realizing the potential they had in using the passage of time to invite back the original cast and do a send up of all those later Brady Bunch spinoffs like The Brady Brides. (Which, honestly, can still be done…) It’s also a waste of the new cast, who I’m sure were just trying to find work and are otherwise capable actors but were forced to do imitations of imitations, which certainly isn’t their fault. Mostly, though, this movie is just a big fat freaking waste of time.

The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 0 / 5

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