“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” The ad wizards who wrote that copy were certainly onto something when they created this memorable tagline, but Decider’s“Take Two” series was specifically formulated in a laboratory by the world’s foremost pop culture scientists to provide a second chance for movies that made a less than stellar first impression upon their original release.
The Godfather Part II, The Empire Strikes Back, Superman II, The Dark Knight, Paddington 2, Bride of Frankenstein — you get the pattern. These are all sequels that are widely regarded as superior to the original film. It’s a hard feat to pull off, and the proliferation of bland sequels has only made it more impressive when a follow-up manages to dunk on the first film. That’s why I not-so-humbly recommend — no, demand — for another sequel to be added to this illustrious and exclusive club. That sequel is the aptly named A Very Brady Sequel.
Yes, the 1996 follow-up is smarter, sharper, weirder, and, most importantly funnier than its 1995 predecessor. I don’t care that A Very Brady Sequel currently stands at 57% on Rotten Tomatoes, just slightly lower than The Brady Bunch Movie’s 63%. Those six percentage points make up the difference between rotten and fresh, and A Very Brady Sequel is still fresh, 27 years later.
The common complaint amongst the naysayers on Rotten Tomatoes is that A Very Brady Sequel just isn’t funny, which is like saying that Marcia Brady’s hair isn’t the perfect shade of blonde. The objective truth is that A Very Brady Sequel was funny in 1996, even funnier in 2023, and that Marcia’s golden-hued hair remains the gold standard.
A Very Brady Sequel improves upon the original, and stands as a proper comedy in its own right, by pushing past the expectations of what a sitcom parody movie should be. The premise — a con man (a wry-as-hell Tim Matheson) poses as Carol Brady’s (a superbly plucky Shelley Long) long-thought-dead husband as part of a mission to steal the family’s super valuable antique horse statue — smartly explores a part of the Brady lore that was always left up to question: Where did Carol and Mike’s original spouses go? The way Mike sums this up — “Alice, this is Roy, Mrs. Brady’s first husband. He’s not dead like we originally thought” — remains one of Gary Cole’s best deadpan deliveries. This premise is a two-fer; not only does it provide an antagonist, but it also digs into the movie’s central premise and mines it for big laughs. What would happen if the picture-perfect ideal 1970s family was faced with — gasp — divorce? It’s a brilliant — and very stupid — plot move that pushes A Very Brady Sequel so far beyond the limitations of the original movie, which primarily focused on differences between ’70s and ’90s culture.
Wow — did I just read a lot into the plot of A Very Brady Sequel? You bet I did, because I’m not a hater like the critics of yesteryear. A Very Brady Sequel’s biggest problem is that it came out in 1996, merely a year after the first film, and as part of a much-maligned trend of turning classic sitcoms into 90-minute nostalgia cash grabs. The Beverly Hillbillies, Sgt. Bilko, Dennis the Menace, McHale’s Navy, Leave It to Beaver, My Favorite Martian, Car 54 Where Are You? — most of them were not hits with audiences and definitely not respected by critics. The Addams Family films were the only ones to shake the curse — and the Bradys shook it too, while wearing polyester bell bottoms.
What boggles my mind is how anyone could look at A Very Brady Sequel and just see a soulless cash-in. The movie is an ambitious step up in every way! Aesthetically alone, the movie just looks better than the original, with bolder colors and a willingness to veer into the bizarre. This is a movie that has both an animated drug freak-out and a tropical detour to Hawaii (after the plane reverses so Marcia can go back home for her hairbrush). It’s a movie that blends so many Brady moments — building a house of cards to solve a problem, Jan’s George Glass ruse, playing ball in the house, Marcia and Greg sharing the attic, the Hawaii trip — into a far-out smoothie that tastes great and goes down easy. The completely out-of-nowhere, slapstick “Oh my nose!” callback is just one example of how A Very Brady Sequel turns what we’d now call Easter eggs into over-the-top, non sequitur humor.
But A Very Brady Sequel doesn’t just rely on viewers knowing The Brady Bunch! Even though the movie is thoroughly Brady, so much so that you could probably Google any plot point and find it already in an episode synopsis on IMDb, it keeps all the conflict and jokes planted in real human feelings. Wow, I’m getting deep about the Bradys again! But this is why the movie has such staying power, even as the days of the Bradys get further and further away. The schmaltzy, unfunny sitcom with a perfectly polished family is still a trope in modern television (or are we calling it content? TikToks? YouTubes?). And we’re not laughing at Greg and Marcia’s uncomfortably horny realization that they are not, in fact, related (“Yes, Greg?”) strictly because of anything from the 1970s series, but rather because of its juxtaposition to that squeaky clean aesthetic we’re all familiar with, and Christopher Daniel Barnes and Christine Taylor’s performances.
This is where I bring out the big guns — or nunchucks, as Peter uses so haphazardly in this movie. No movie with Jennifer Elise Cox’s performance as Jan and Christine Taylor’s performance as Marcia deserves to be “rotten.”
In both films, but particularly A Very Brady Sequel, both Cox and Taylor turn out two of the greatest comedic performances of all time. They are iconic separately. Note Jan’s unhinged demon voice whisper/growling “KEEP IT” as she tries to hurry a delivery boy away, or the way she sways her hair as she walks. Then there’s Christine Taylor’s line delivery, the meticulous way she mispronounces “school” (“skül”), or how she matter-of-factly says, “All right. I’ll go first because I’m the prettiest.” The George Tropicana Glass plot, the hands-down best part of the movie, gives us gem after gem from these two geniuses as Jan desperately tries to steal some of Marcia’s thunder while Marcia doesn’t even realize it’s raining. I’m saying, this is the movie that gave us “Sure, Jan,” a perfect meme. Respect it.
And all that brings me to the final point, one that ’90s and ’00s critics could not have predicted, nor could they have even fathomed: A Very Brady Sequel is queer canon. It is camp. It is drag (RuPaul, reprising her role as Jan’s guidance counselor). If you owned A Very Brady Sequel on VHS in 1997 and proudly proclaimed it your favorite movie of all time, you are probably a homosexual pop culture journalist writing a piece about how A Very Brady Sequel deserves respect. But that is A Very Brady Sequel’s legacy, and critics at the time were not equipped to understand that. The movie is meticulous — look at just anyone in any scene and you will see a joke — while also being deranged. It has the exact tone of the ’70s series and, at times, doesn’t even heighten it. The joke is how faithful they’re being to something that was already so bizarre — and that’s a joke that RuPaul and a cast of Drag Race queens pushed to the limit in an “original” special in 2021.
Drag queens are still inspired by this very movie today. For example, RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 15’s Marcia Marcia Marcia — a queen three months younger than A Very Brady Sequel. That is the legacy of this movie, an enduring camp comedy that just gets better with age — and that’s something that A Very Brady Sequel has that The Dark Knight or The Godfather Part II will never have, because they are not that kind of girl.