The Brady Bunch Movie is A Fun Retcon of the 1970s Series

The Brady Bunch Movie. Courtesy of Paramount.

The Brady Bunch Movie retcons the 1970s series by moving the family into a 1990s setting while keeping the same 1970s vibe.

What I didn’t know until after rewatching the film for the first time in years was how it drew on The Real Live Brady Bunch, which first premiered at the Annoyance Theatre in Chicago. The Soloway siblings–Joey and Faith–co-developed the parody in Chicago before later taking it west to Los Angeles. Paramount was all set to issue a cease-and-desist but didn’t do anything until after The Brady Bunch creator Sherwood Schwartz visited Chicago and gave it his blessing so to speak. It was Schwartz’s Chicago visit that led him to understand the sitcom’s popularity. Without the Soloways bringing The Real Live Brady Bunch to the stage, it’s impossible to know if The Brady Bunch Movie would have ever become a thing.

The film is not a reboot or a remake but instead, it is an alternate retcon of the 1969-74 series. It finds a way to stand apart from other 1960s and 70s series making their way to the big screen. Where films like Get Smart and Bewitched are outright remakes, the Bradys hold onto the same 1970s fashion and morality from the series. However, the environment around them is clearly that of a 1990s setting. Because it is a film, they find ways to include a massive amount of easter eggs for the fans. Yes, Marcia (Christine Taylor) still gets hit on the noise by a football. Three members of The Monkees have cameos while Davy Jones gets a musical number. It’s funny watching the teachers rush to the front at the school dance rather than students.

Mike Brady (Gary Cole) works as an architect in Ls Angeles but the Bradys are on the verge of losing their house because they didn’t pay their property tax. A running gag is that the Brady and Dittmeyer households keep getting the other family’s mail. Anyway, real estate developer Larry Dittmeyer (Michael McKean) is not a nice guy. He’ll do whatever it takes to force the Bradys out of their home. After all, they are the only neighbors standing in the way of building a shopping mall. He would get away with it, too, if not for the Brady children winning the Search for the Stars. Anyway, there’s so much humor because of how the Brady Bunch clashes with their environment.

There’s one thing in the film that probably doesn’t make it into the film today. This is Mrs. Dittmeyer’s (Jean Smart) antics by seducing some of the Brady children. The scene was in the trailer but producer Sherwood Schwartz had his objections and it is not in the film. There’s certainly a sequence in the film where you can tell something is going on. It stands out like a sore thumb while watching in 2024.

Original Brady Bunch cast members Florence Henderson, Barry Williams, Christopher Knight, and Ann B. Davis have cameos in the film. A few other cameos were filmed with Mike Lookinland, Susan Olsen, and Maureen McCormick but did not make it into the final film. Despite other cameos not making it, the original Brady Bunch children still have a presence in the film by way of the soundtrack. Their voices are heard on both “It’s A Sunshine Day” and “Keep On.” If you’re looking to watch the original episodes with the songs, Paramount+ is missing “Amateur Nite” in Season 4 along with several other episodes. Absurd!

Following this film, A Very Brady Sequel would go into production without director Betty Thomas. It makes a bit of a change from the original series by tying it into another Schwartz series, Gilligan’s Island, by making Professor Roy Hinkley the first husband of Carol Brady. The change would make her Carol Hinkley rather than Carol Martin before becoming a Brady. Meanwhile, Jeannie (Barbara Eden) shows up at the end claiming to be Mike Brady’s first wife.

The Brady Bunch Movie offers fun for the whole family while paying homage to the original series.

DIRECTOR: Betty Thomas
SCREENWRITERS: Laurice Elehwany & Rick Copp and Bonnie Turner & Terry Turner
CAST: Shelley Long, Gary Cole, Christine Taylor, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Jennifer Elise Cox, Paul Sutera, Olivia Hack, Jesse Lee, Henriette Mantel, David Graf, Jack Noseworthy, Megan Ward, Jean Smart, and Michael McKean

Paramount released The Brady Bunch Movie in theaters on February 17, 1995. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.