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The Bradys take charge of America

November 29, 2002|Scott Sandell | Times Staff Writer

The title just about says it all: "The Brady Bunch in the White House."

Talk about the American Dream turned into a nightmare. And yet there it is in black and white: 8 to 10 tonight on Fox.

Envisioned as a romp, the film certainly fulfills its mission of being goofy. If only it had a little more common sense to put some of that silliness in relief.

That's what the first feature film, 1996's "The Brady Bunch Movie," did successfully, satirizing the improbably wholesome family by setting it against an all-too-common world laden with crime, greed and lust.

But tonight's flick is all outlandishness, all the time, from square one. The plot: Bobby finds a winning lottery ticket, and Mike insists that the family find its rightful owner. Unbeknownst to them, the purchaser is being led off to his execution (apparently they have quick-pick machines on death row).

With no owner coming forward, Mike donates the $67 million to charity, making the family a symbol of honesty and Mike the perfect running mate for a president in need of respectability. Just as the president is about to retake the oath, a scandal erupts and Mike finds himself moving into the Oval Office, with Carol joining him as V.P.

Being big-picture types, the Bradys hold Cabinet meetings on such issues as Marcia's big slumber party -- and an impending meteor strike that will wipe out life on Earth.

This Brady movie seems to confirm all our worst thoughts about the bunch, that underneath the veneer of perfection lies something very dark: a concept hinted at in the first theatrical feature but carried to extremes here. Now Mike and Carol (Gary Cole and Shelley Long, the only returning principals from the feature films) are more doltish than naive; Marcia, Greg, Peter and even Alice more lustful (and the two eldest siblings borderline incestuous) than romantically awkward; Cindy and Bobby more annoying than sickeningly sweet; and Jan ... well, Jan is absolutely psychotic.

All that said, there are still plenty of references to the original series, inside jokes and real-life politics that generate some chuckles. But the rest is just high crimes and misdemeanors.

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