Movie Review: The Bronze

“The Bronze,” made the last gymnastic movie I saw, which was “Stick It,” appear practically Oscar-nomination worthy. Both movies feature a tough-talking female gymnast who winds up learning a little humility on the road to redemption, as well as resolving some issues, but that’s where the comparisons end. “Stick It” is about a teenager, and “The Bronze,” stars Melissa Rauch (who also wrote this) as a washed-up former Olympian who took a bronze after injuring her foot and won the hearts of America. Perhaps this part was inspired by an occasion in the 96′ Olympic women’s gymnastics when Kerri Strug performed a second vault after injuring her foot, thus helping the team take a collective gold for the first time in history. In any case, with gymnastics, the philosophy that you should remount after falling off the horse should be taken literally. However, Melissa’s character is hanging on to her former fame long past her expiration date: she still lives in her hometown with her doting but increasingly annoyed father (Gary Cole), and spends the bulk of her days scoring freebies from milkshakes to track shoes. She steals, does drugs, and throws tantrums at the slightest provocation: basically, Melissa is Veruca Salt in a warm-up suit and ponytail. Oh, and a mouth like a “South Park” character.

Things turn bleak for Melissa when her father stops her allowance, forcing her to figure out some way of acquiring an income. Fortunately, her former coach commits suicide, and leaves a note promising Melissa that she will receive a sizable chunk of cash, as long as she helps current young hometown star (Haley Lu Richardson) make it to the Olympics. At first, Melissa is (as the soundtrack helpfully points out) a bitch: sabotaging the Pollyanna-like Haley’s training regimen, acting snide to the geeky gym employee (Thomas Middleditch); and so on. The head coach of the women’s gymnastic Olympic team is Sebastian Stan, a cocky former love interest (to put it politely) of Melissa’s, and he becomes her rival for who will ultimately coach Haley. Will Melissa recapture her old passion for gymnastics, and get possibly a few degrees more tolerable as a daughter, coach and girlfriend? Do you even need to ask?

“The Bronze,” is to young gymnastics fans what “Black Swan” was to would-be ballerinas – totally inappropriate to be viewed, unless you happen to be a jaw-droppingly permissive parent. The movie is rated “R,” and unlike some movies, it becomes clear why within the first five minutes. The main character cusses like a truck driver, even after her “redemption,” and there’s a sex scene which answers the question: How might two Olympic medal-winning gymnasts do it? The answer turns out to be a scene that probably took as much choreographing as the gymnastic scenes, but is, alas, like most of the movie, not particularly amusing.


A Look Back: The Brady Bunch Movie

Sitcoms, when you’re a kid, tend to have a peculiar charm, as they don’t really resemble your actual family life or that of your friends. In a sitcom world, you may get the chance to observe strange new customs and rituals, but you always have the security of knowing that issues will be resolved in thirty minutes, certain problems will only crop up at certain times of the year, and very little can’t ultimately be resolved with a tidy moral and a laugh track, just so no one gets too bummed out.

When I was growing up, shows where the kids were raised by dads and dad figures were popular (which Freud would have a lot to say about), but before that, there was the Brady Bunch, bravely going where no TV stepfamily had gone before. In BradyWorld, pop stars manage to visit high school dances, good-looking un-related teens develop no sexual tension whatsoever living together, and there’s nothing more fun than an impromptu trip to Sears. Though of course, BradyWorld has a lot of things that don’t make a great deal of sense. Either you start realizing these things as you mature, or it’s left to someone in the house older and more jaded to point out such plot holes/conundrums as:

1. If Alice is the live-in full-time family maid, what does Mrs. Brady do all day? Surely, her hair appointment can’t take that long.

2. If Mr. Brady is such a great architect, why doesn’t he figure out a way to add on more bedrooms so six kids aren’t jammed into two rooms?

3. What happened to Tiger, the dog that was present in the early episodes?

In 1995, “The Brady Bunch Movie,” was released. Instead of placing the whole thing in the original era, the filmmakers went for the genius twist of having them living with their values intact in the nineties, untouched by such things as drugs, crime and political correctness. If their world is symbolic Astroturf, their neighbors’ is looking more than a bit grub-infested.

Gary Cole takes on the role of the head patriarch, Mike, channeling the passive-aggressive amiability he used for his “Office Space” role but without any of the smarm. Shelley Long plays his wife, perky Carol, who stands firmly behind her man, chirping “Your father’s right, kids!” even as his metaphors become hopelessly convoluted. Playing the junior bunch are Christine Taylor (a ringer down to the last hair swish) as Marcia; Christopher Daniel Barnes as Greg; Paul Sutera as Peter; Jennifer Elise Cox as Jan; Jesse Lee Soffer as Bobby; and Olivia Hack as Cindy. And Henriette Mantel plays Alice. Cameos by several of the original bunch, including Florence Henderson, Barry Williams and Alice B. Davis are also included. The theme music, home, profession of Mr. Brady, and problems of the six survive, although the Brady’s perpetual optimistic approach to life baffles and disgusts their nineties’ acquaintances. As one character puts it, “Come on! A family that’s always happy?”

The main plot has to do with the threat of the Brady’s possibly losing their house if they can’t raise an enormous sum in time. In Brady tradition, the kids decide to put on a show and compete in a song and dance competition. This will tie in with Marcia’s obsession with Davy Jones, Greg’s desire to become a professional musician, Jan’s determination to eclipse Marcia, and Peter’s first crush. The younger kids also have their own problems, as does Alice who, in this version, finds her suitor, Sam the Butcher, hopelessly unromantic. Eventually, of course, everything works out, the house is saved, and the Brady’s neighbors learn a few lessons about the importance of looking at the sunny side of things. A sequel would follow, in which the Brady’s take a vacation to Hawaii – giving them another chance for a “Something suddenly came up,” joke. And in “The Brady Bunch Movie,” Shelley does toss off an aside about Tiger’s whereabouts. (The real Tiger died offset, but that part is left out.)



A Look Back: Office Space

What transforms a good movie into a classic?  Well, if at least a few quotes have staying power, that’s a bonus.  “Office Space,” which came out in the nineties, like a John Hughes or Monty Python movie, has the advantage of not only expressing something universal, it’s compulsively quotable.  A few gems.

“It’s not that I’m lazy…it’s that I just don’t care!”

“You’ve been missing an awful lot of work lately.”
“Well, I wouldn’t say I’ve been ‘missing’ it.”

“The ratio of cake to people is too big.”

Ron Livingston plays the protagonist of “Office Space,” a white collar computer software drone named Peter Gibbons, who deals with the same petty indignities most of us do in our jobs.  For starters, he has to crawl through bottleneck traffic, and when he arrives, he’s greeted by a perky colleague who chirps, “Looks like someone’s got a case of the Mondays!” complete with an exaggerated Frowny Face.  He doesn’t have one supervisor, he has seven or eight, so when he makes a minor error such as forgetting to attach the cover to his TPS report, he gets reprimanded umpteen times. His boss is the skin-crawlingly smarmy Lumbergh (Gary Cole), whose hand is permanently attached to his coffee mug, whose speech is punctuated by “Mmmm…yeah…m’okays,” and who has a habit of asking him to work weekends on the spur of the moment before he can think of an excuse not to.

Unsurprisingly, Ron’s free time is depressing, too.  Every night he collapses on the couch, only to be interrupted by his next door neighbor, a single guy who bellows, “Check out the breast exams – Channel 9!” Nor is Ron happy with the girl he’s dating – he half-suspects that she might be cheating on him, and his friends are sure of it.  But he’s stuck in a rut of inertia, and there’s seemingly no way out.

Ron, of course, is not the only corporate drone who is unhappy.  There’s his two pals Michael Bolton (David Herman) and Samir (Ajay Naidu), who suffer even more indignities based on their names.  If the three of them don’t do something about their festering discontent, one fears they may one day morph into Milton (Stephen Root), the elderly “squirrelly” guy who wages daily battles to listen to his radio at a reasonable volume, remain in the same cubicle for longer than a week, and keep his prized Swingline stapler out of the clutches of others who may filch it.

One day after work, Ron accompanies his girlfriend to a hypnotist shrink, whose treatment has a unique effect on Ron, mainly that he still lacks motivation but now no longer cares who knows.  He starts coming in late for work, guts fish on his TPS reports and starts dating a server from a chain restaurant nearby (Jennifer Aniston), who also has major issues with her job and the level of enthusiasm for it that she’s expected to display.  So Ron’s happy until he learns that there is some corporate “restructuring” going on, and that his friends’ jobs are on the line.  After that comes embezzlement, comuppance, and ultimately arson, brought about by the theft of the Swingline stapler, which is apparently indestructible and survives the inferno at the end.  As for Stephen, he’s last seen on a tropical beach complaining about the drinks and plotting revenge.  Some people are never satisfied.