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By Doug Brunell | April 22, 2004

The plane began its ascent into the heavens. I, of course, was gripping whatever I could get my hands on as I tried to maintain a semblance of calm. My wife was popping some Xanax. We had six hours before we arrived on the East Coast. Six hours in a plane? I’d rather spend six hours in New Jersey.

This flight took place years before 9/11, so I wasn’t nervous about terrorists or anything like that. Flying just doesn’t agree with me. I’ve done it several times, but there is always one moment on every flight where I think the plane is going down. That’s how I am. That one moment on this flight was the take-off.

I watched as my wife fell asleep. I don’t even think we were at the proper altitude yet, but she was out like a light. With her in Dreamland, I had no idea what I was going to do these next six hours. I had a Walkman with me, but had no desire to listen to Danzig. I brought a book, too, but I couldn’t bring myself to crack open “The Killer Inside Me.”

I looked around the cabin, taking in the passengers. It was the usual assortment, which meant nobody looked interesting enough to engage in conversation. One guy was wearing an Operation Ivy shirt, so there were possibilities there, but he was deeply into whatever was pumping into his brain through his earphones.

Then I remembered we’d be seeing a movie.

I’ve flown enough to know that whatever movie was being shown would be something straight out of mainstream Hollywood … and probably heavily edited. I was still excited, however. Maybe I was hoping the film the airline was going to show would be broke and we’d have to watch “The Hills Have Eyes.” Maybe I thought I’d be seeing that one film I’ve always wanted to see but hadn’t had the chance to yet. (I think that would’ve been “Basic Instinct” at that time. Little did I know.)

“What’s the film?” I asked the stewardess as she walked by with a drink tray.

“I’m sorry,” she said. I thought she didn’t hear me, but I now know she was apologizing for what she would be telling me.

“What film are you showing?” I repeated.

She smiled. It wasn’t a pleasant smile. It was the kind of smile you get from nurses when they see you struggling to get out of your wheelchair. “We’ll be watching “The Brady Bunch Movie.” Would you like to rent some headphones?”

I was speechless for a few seconds. “No, I have my own.”

I’ve had the displeasure of watching “Taking Care of Business” and “Dante’s Peak” on various trips. “The Brady Bunch Movie” had to be the worst of the group, though. There was no way this was happening. Not to me. Not now. Marcia. Greg. Alice. Oh, the torture.

I wasn’t writing “Excess Hollywood” at the time, and I hadn’t reviewed too many films as of yet. I was primarily a music journalist, but I watched the film anyway. I was hoping there would be something … anything … I could take from the experience and work into a piece.

And I was really bored.

I don’t remember much about the movie, but I do remember being pretty pissed off about it. I got even angrier when I noticed that people were laughing. I felt like Homer Simpson after he got that crayon out of his brain and went to see “Love Is Nice” starring Julia Roberts. If you remember that episode, he tells the audience that the movie is “tired” and predictable, and then he is thrown out of the theatre for pointing out plot holes and not laughing.

I couldn’t understand why people were cracking up so much, so I started watching them while keeping one eye on the movie. I made silent predictions of when they would laugh and what the next joke on the screen would be about. I was right nearly one hundred percent of the time. It was tired and predictable.

When the film ended (I think it was the three hour version), some people actually applauded. I thought maybe I had accidentally boarded a plane filled with foreigners who thought it was polite to applaud after every movie, but no, these were stupid Americans who talked excitedly about the movie and discussed their favorite episodes of the show. Some were talking about which parts of the movie they liked the best. It was creepy and unreal.

“Did you enjoy the show?” the stewardess asked me as she placed a Coke on my tray.

“Absolutely not,” I told her. “Do you guys ever get anything good?”

She just gave me that same smile. “All movies are good.”

I didn’t get it. If the plane suddenly went down into the wastelands of Utah, it would be an appropriate end to “The Brady Bunch Movie” disaster. And what struck me as being really, really strange is that if we were going to die, that would’ve been the last movie we saw … and people seemed happy about it!

Picture this: You have three hours to live. All you can do is either sleep, read, listen to music or watch “The Brady Bunch Movie.” What would you choose? Exactly. I, like a fool, watched it, though. That flight could’ve been my last moments on Earth, and I would’ve died with “The Brady Bunch Movie” being the last thing to stimulate my brain. At least I wasn’t foolish enough to enjoy it.

That thought didn’t comfort me, though. Unlike the people I thought were idiots, if that really was the last movie I’d see, I watched something I hated and didn’t even try to enjoy it. Those other people were at least laughing and having a good time. I was miserable. I was the fool. I was the idiot. I was the stupid American.

Next time I’m reading that damn book … or sleeping … or listening to Danzig. If I’m going to die in a plane crash, the last movie of my life will not be The Princess Diaries. I guarantee it … unless of course, I’m really bored.

Discuss Doug Brunell’s “Excess Hollywood” column in Film Threat’s BACK TALK section! Click here>>>

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