A Very Brady Sequel (Arlene Sanford)

Rating: **1/2 (out of ****)

The Brady Bunch Movie -- which I skipped during its theatrical run early in 1995, but caught up with on video prior to seeing its successor -- was unique among the slew of recent movies adapted from beloved television shows of yesteryear in that it actually sported a premise more innovative and entertaining than "hey, remember these folks?!?" Its conceit -- that time has stood still for the Brady family while marching inexorably onward for the rest of us -- lent some comic bite and thematic weight (no, really) to the standard kitschy nostalgia of the genre. It turned out to be considerably better than I'd thought possible; with my expectations for the sequel subsequently heightened, I was (perhaps inevitably) a bit disappointed. In many ways, the two films are virtually identical: the same wonderfully deadpan actors; the same lovingly recreated, unbelievably tacky sets and costumes; the same in-jokes (there's no point in seeing either film if you aren't intimately familiar with the series); the same loony situations. But where the two deviate, the new film is less effective. For one thing, the juxtaposition of the Bradys' late-60's/early-70's values (and general sitcom cheesiness -- I hope none of you youngsters believes that the show accurately portrayed that era) with today's "real world" (ahem) is more or less an afterthought this time, so we're stranded for long stretches with nothing to entertain us save for the kitsch factor. For another, far too much of the comedy consists of silly sexual innuendo; every time Mike and Carol or Greg and Marsha were alone in the same room, I knew it was time to cringe again. And Tim Matheson, despite a valiant effort, is simply not as amusing a comic foil as Michael McKean was in the original. On the other hand, A Very Brady Sequel features two spontaneous musical numbers -- one in a shopping center, one on an airplane -- which alone almost justify the price of admission, and Gary Cole's perfect reproduction of Robert Reed's vocal inflections and intonations had me gasping with laughter virtually every time he opened his mouth. A guilty semi-pleasure.