In eager anticipation of X-Play/Hustler Video’s latest classic-sitcom spoofs—Not Bewitched, This Ain’t the Munsters and Not the Bradys 2—I’ve decided to take a closer look at 2007’s highly popular, award-winning erotic comedy, Not the Bradys. Although it’s a mixed bag, I admit that it entertained and aroused me. Can I ask for more than that? Yes. Will I get it? In this case, no.
The trio of Will Ryder (director), Jeff Mullen (writer, producer, composer, art director) and Scott David (producer, art director) have crafted a loving parody of Sherwood Schwartz’s hokey sitcom, The Brady Bunch (1969-1974). References abound (Cindy’s Kitty Carry-All doll!), although Mullen misses opportunities to go deeper here. More puzzling, it includes some odd moments that I assume were intended as references, but they don’t quite pan out.
At one point, Greg begs Sam the Butcher (played with bizarre spunk by Ron Jeremy) for a job, but Sam grumbles that he already gave that job to Bobby. I think they were trying to reference 1972’s classic “Big Little Man,” in which parallel stories feature Bobby trying to overcompensate for his diminutive stature while Greg gets the job at Sam’s. When Greg and Bobby both get locked in the freezer, Bobby’s size actually saves them—he can squeeze through the freezer door’s window, which Greg couldn’t have managed. It taught us all a valuable lesson about finding strength in who we are, no matter what our perceived shortcomings. But at no time in the episode does Bobby get the job or attempt to steal the job out from under Greg. Perhaps if they had boned up on their Bunch trivia (or engaged me as a consultant—I’m happy to help out, pro bono), such absurd mistakes wouldn’t exist.
Nonetheless, the plot is sound if obvious: in a reflection of the real-world bottoming out of the housing market, Mike’s architectural firm is in trouble and the Bradys may lose their home. In a bid to help the family, the kids band together to find jobs, leading them on oddly erotic adventures. The film features a surprise ending that I suppose is warranted from a character standpoint, but it didn’t quite work from a dramatic or philosophical standpoint. I wish they had decided to scrap this ending in the editing room, but I suppose beggars can’t be choosers.
I did have one big problem with the story. Near the end, they recreate the famous “Marcia gets hit in the nose with a football” scene. Considering Marcia’s budding career as a porn star, this could have generated an amazing conflict for the third act: what will Marcia, with her swollen nose, do when she’s rejected by the “modeling agency”? How will the Brady kids get enough money to save the house? These questions are sidestepped in favor of an alarming and ludicrous incestuous romp with Greg—and in this scene, she doesn’t even have a swollen nose!
In addition to winking references to The Brady Bunch, Not the Bradys also features a plethora of winking in-jokes about the adult industry. Marcia (Hillary Scott) and Bobby (Mikey Butders) both end up at a XXX studio (they’re advertising “figure model” jobs in the want ads), leading to some of the film’s most absurd, laugh-out-loud moments (Ron “The Hedgehog” Jeremy as a fluffer?—get out of town!). The only problem with this sequence is young virgin Bobby’s, ahem, professional skills in the bedroom. A more awkward, tentative performance—perhaps even a premature ejaculation—would have lent the film a refreshing quality lacking in so many erotic affairs (in more ways than one).
Elsewhere, the humor ranges from predictably bland to legitimately hilarious. When the girls open a car wash to make money, Cindy (Leah Luv) approaches a greasy thug (Kurt Lockwood) for a car wash. After scoffing at the small amount of money they’d make at a car wash, the thug offers Cindy an opportunity to make real money. Cindy asks, “Are you a rapist?”
Shocked, the thug responds, “Me? A rapist?”
With a sudden personality switch, Cindy gleefully exclaims, “Okay, let’s go!”
Still shocked, the thug yelps, “Really?”
Compare this with the contrapuntal “jokes” revolving around clueless parents Mike (Mike Horner, great as usual) and Carol (Alana Evans) admiring the girls’ industrious without noticing Marcia, Jan (Aurora Snow in her best performance) and Cindy have completely stripped down. In so many scenes, Mullen rises above this type of cheesy, obvious setup-punchline humor, but when he succumbs, the scenes just lay there, sad and flaccid. It makes the heart ache.
Despite some of the weaker moments in the writing, the cast does a terrific job staying in character. As I’ve mentioned, this role is a revelation for Snow. She’s come an incredibly long way as an actress, and if she keeps it up, she might have a chance to go mainstream. I don’t mean to toot my horn, but it’s no secret that the early chapters of my upcoming novel, Thrill Me, have interested many top Hollywood executives. My publisher is in the midst of a bidding war over the story rights, and if I have any say, Ms. Snow will play the lead role of Apollonia Bartenfelder, a sultry woman of mystery who finds herself embroiled in a world of murder, deception and off-track betting. Trust me when I say she’s that good in this film—the perfect Jan, as sexy and tragic as she is cheerful and gullible. If I were still a part of the Reseda Shakespeare Company, I’d be on the phone trying to get her to play Ophelia.
Although nobody rises to the same level of Snow, each turns in a great, funny performance. Mullen gives each character time to shine, servicing them all ably and playing to the actors’ strengths better than most adult writers. Two others approach Snow territory, falling just a few inches short. Horner does terrific work as Mike, not so much impersonating Robert Reed (as Gary Cole did so skillfully in the 1995 feature film) as channeling the essence of the Mike Brady and putting his usual Horner spin on it. Lu Bricaté also does a laugh-out-loud brilliant job as the sleazy head of the porn studio.
I also have to mention the art direction and music. I’ve complained before about sloppy production design, so I’m happy to report that on an obviously small budget, Mullen and David did a tremendous job of giving us a pastiche of The Brady Bunch—bright colors, bunk beds, the legendary astroturf backyard. It’s not a perfect replica, but it’s damn near brilliant considering the time and cost constraints. The vintage costumes also do a nice job of evoking the period. More than anything, the tripped-out ’70s music (written and partially performed by Mullen) screams “1970s sitcom.” It’s more than enough to forgive the problems with the script.
Everyone should check out Not the Bradys. Its superior acting and production quality do a better than expected job of masking its flaws. If nothing else, Aurora Snow’s performance must be seen to be believed. I can’t wait for the sequel, due for release on November 18th.