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The Legacy of Davy Jones: Head & The Brady Bunch Movie

It’s rough when our nostalgia bites us. I don’t think I’ve thought of Davy Jones all that much in the past couple of decades. But I have pondered his link to my childhood through his two most iconic television appearances ever since his untimely passing on February 29th at the age of 66. First, it was through the series “The Monkees”, which I enjoyed immensely in re-runs as a young boy(production of the show stopped in early 1968 when I was just two, so I’m sure I was not viewing those initial broadcasts). Then on “The Brady Bunch” in 1971 as the object of Marcia Brady’s(Maureen McCormick)obsessive fanaticism. The full measure of the impact of those shows, however, would not be felt until I was an adult viewing a pair of feature films that spoofed those very appearances. Both are worth a look in 2012.               Let’s start with Bob Rafelson’s “Head” from 1968. I probably saw this for the first time about a dozen years ago, and I didn’t know what to make of it. Seems I wasn’t alone—it was a notorious bomb upon its release. But, after a recent rewatch, I fully appreciated its stream of consciousness riffing. I mean it’s pretty goddamn cool that Jones, Tork, Dolenz and Nesmith were savvy enough to lampoon their reputation as a manufactured band. And it’s about the nature of free will, man. Cool, ya dig? Freaking Jack Nicholson wrote this thing! And he, with his buddy Rafelson, and producer Bert Schneider would go on to create the classic “Five Easy Pieces”(chicken salad sandwich…if you don’t know it, you need to—so queue it NOW!)just two years later with some of the very same people they used in “Head”. And “Head” is certainly a trip. SEE former champ Sonny Liston knock out Davy Jones! SEE Mr. Jones dance with Toni Basil, who would reach #1 on the singles chart almost 15 years later(pushing 40!)with her infectious “Mickey”! SEE nifty cameos from an unknown Terri Garr, a well-known Annette Funicello, as well as Frank Zappa, Dennis Hopper and Mr. Jack Nicholson, himself! The film was reportedly conceived during a drug-fueled weekend spent by Jack and Bob Rafelson. How else, I guess, to explain the image of The Monkees appearing as dandruff being vacuumed out of Victor Mature’s hair. This is fun stuff, and its cult reputation has grown exponentially since it premiered 44 years ago. Give it a look now…whether through a “straight” view or an “enhanced” one.               Ahhh, “The Brady Bunch Movie”. You know how you catch a film studio going it cheap? It’s when they try to reap the rewards of latching onto cult nostalgia, by updating said pieces to the present day(watch for this again next month with the release of “The Three Stooges”, somehow time-machined to 2012). There was no reason to set the 1995 “Brady” movie in 1995, except to save on the cost of actually producing a 1970’s period piece. That being said, some of the fish-out-of-water set-ups actually offer a few chuckles. Especially for those of the right age(as in anyone who consistently watched the T.V. show and its seemingly always present re-runs). It also offers some uncanny impersonations of the series original stars, the best work coming from Christine Taylor(who’s spookily dead-on as Marcia), Shelley Long as Carol Brady and the superb character actor Gary Cole absolutely channeling the late Robert Reed’s preachy cadence as Mike Brady. But my favorite part of the film is the brief appearance of Mr. Davy Jones. He arrives(at the request of a very excited Marcia)at the school dance to perform his 1971 hit, “Girl”(the same song he performed on the television show in 1971). One problem, none of her fellow grunge-period classmates know who the hell he is. It’s not until he starts singing the sappy love song that the school’s teachers realize that it actually is the real Davy Jones, and proceed to push the unimpressed teens out-of-the-way to get to him. Then, with some help from the youthful school band lingering behind Davy, the song is pumped up just enough to get the whole audience hooked on the performance. For me, this scene perfectly encapsulated the 70’s/90’s culture clash the film leeched off of for its entire running time. It almost completely redeems the entire thing. Almost.               So, Davy Jones has left us way too soon. He’ll live on via celluloid forever, though. I never even realized I would miss him. But I do. And I’m certain I’m not alone. Rest in peace, Mr. Jones—your band may have been manufactured, but the warm, fuzzy memories you helped create remain all too real.     “Head”   Grade: B+          “The Brady Bunch Movie”     Grade: C+

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