We Really Like Her! is a Toronto-based monthly screening series at the Revue Cinema. It is co-programmed and hosted by Emily Gagne and Danita Steinberg and aims to celebrate and highlight women in film. Our column, coinciding with our monthly screening, will give That Shelf readers a little insight into the thought process behind our film choices — from their cultural significance to why we love them.
This month, we are bringing The Brady Bunch Movie (1995) back to the big screen.
Growing up femme in the ‘90s was a true gift. The era of so-called “girl power” wasn’t only a great time for empowering pop acts. It was also the heyday of studio comedies written and directed by women.
When I think of the comedy films that define my sense of humour, two ‘90s flicks immediately come to mind: Wayne’s World (1992) and The Brady Bunch Movie (1995). Directed by Penelope Spheeris (The Little Rascals, Black Sheep) and Betty Thomas (Private Parts, John Tucker Must Die) respectively, these movies manage the near impossible feat of balancing pop culture commentary with heart, their thoughtful threads about friendship and family stacked up against cameos from Alice Cooper and Davy Jones. This is why, despite their timely references, they are as good now as they were when they came out.
While we have been lucky to screen Wayne’s World at the Revue Cinema already, Danita and I have been waiting for the right moment to present The Brady Bunch Movie. The more underrated of the two, we truly believe it deserves to be as referenced as Wayne’s World, if not more.
Thanks to Thomas’s warm and wacky direction and the stacked cast led by Gary Cole and Shelley Long, The Brady Bunch Movie is more than just a satire of a beloved sitcom. Yes, the script references the show a fair amount (see: Christine Taylor’s Marcia getting hit in the face with a football). But it speaks to the ‘90s as much as it does the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, with the Bradys appearing adorably out of touch with their time period as they interact with the likes of RuPaul (as a fabulous guidance counselor who interacts with Jennifer Elise Cox’s pitch perfect Jan), and Michael McKean and Jean Smart (as nosey neighbours the Dittmeyers).
Betty Thomas may not be a household name like Nora Ephron, Nancy Meyers and Penny Marshall, but her comedic output deserves to be celebrated alongside them. The actress-turned-filmmaker has two films in the top 25 highest grossing films made by women (Dr. Doolittle and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel). She is, like this movie, truly happening in a far out way!
I was raised by the glow of TV Land and Nick at Nite, both of which played the original television show so I was already well acquainted with one of pop culture’s most beloved families. I always enjoyed its wholesome and earnest sensibility. Plus, the theme song is a banger. Man, I really miss good theme songs. Anyway, by the time I saw The Brady Bunch Movie, I was primed to love it. I don’t even want to know how many times I watched that VHS tape, plus the dozens of times I caught it on cable.
One of my favourite parts about programming is when we can tap into that nostalgia, which we’ve done before with films like Crossroads, My Girl, and Mermaids. It’s so much fun to be in a theatre with an audience of millennials (and mostly women and queer folks) who were also total weirdos as kids. It’s also great to be able to share these films with the younger generation (I’m literally crying thinking about the group of tween girls at our screening of Harriet the Spy). These are movies they probably won’t stumble upon while channel-surfing because that’s not a thing that exists for them! And not to sound old, but they just don’t make off-beat, live action movies that appeal to kids anymore.
Like Emily mentioned, some of the best comedies to come out of the 90s were directed by women. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I love that these women shaped my sense of humour with films like Look Who’s Talking and Look Who’s Talking Too (Amy Heckerling), Billy Madison (Tamra Davis), A Very Brady Sequel (Arlene Sanford), Dr. Doolittle, and The Little Rascals. I’m grateful to all of them.
The Brady Bunch Movie is an oddball movie that feels like a fever dream. It’s satire, but in the kindest way possible. The writers (Bonnie and Terry Turner, Laurice Elehwany, and Rick Copp) and director Betty Thomas honoured the innocence and sincerity of the original, while also turning those old-fashioned ideals on their head. That subversiveness, paired with its campy energy and kooky cast of characters is what makes The Brady Bunch Movie a timeless classic that will never go out of style.
The Brady Bunch Movie screens at Toronto’s Revue Cinema Thursday, May 18th. Tickets available here.
Follow We Really Like Her! on Twitter and stay tuned for a look at their June screening pick!