One of the most highly rated movies in Family Channel history was 1999’s Au Pair. It was a charming story about a widower executive with two kids. He meets and falls in love with the smart and pretty middle-class au pair Jenny. Thus he is saved from marrying a gold-digging shrew of a fiance. The Family Channel followed up in 2001 with the aptly named sequel Au Pair II. It was good but did not capture the same magic.
After a gap of 8 years the cast returns in Au Pair III: Adventure in Paradise. The same child actors have grown up into refreshingly normal looking people as opposed to the skinny sculpted actors we most often see. The setting has moved to Puerto Rico as a nice change up to the European vistas of the previous entries. However, the very structure of the plot has also changed from the first.
The first movie was a great story about people finding real value in their lives and coming together to fight a common problem. Au Pair III gives every character their own unique problem which gives you the feeling that they are all unhappy. It also keeps them emotionally separated the whole movie.
Former au pair Jenny is unsatisfied in her work and wants to do something more genuine and spend more time with her and Oliver’s new baby. Oliver is stressed by corporate politics and vision-less stereotyped board members. The kids Alex and Katie also seem to have grown unhappy. Katie more so than Alex. Katie seems resentful, sarcastic and self centered. Alex is struggling to tell his dad what career he really wants to pursue, -when he is not striking out with the ladies.
A character named Ariana played by the fetching Kathleen Mealia is introduced as Katie’s friend. Her striking looks (and bikini) leave an impression. They spent 99% of the movie building up the seemingly 2-sided romantic tension between her and Alex. Then they drop it totally and inexplicably with her giving hapless Alex the “just friends” speech. Then why did she almost kiss him earlier? Thanks for nothing.
Produced by a group called “Rain Forest Productions” we should not have been surprised by the heavy handed environmental messages. Hey we like the environment too, but stop hitting us with it. Why Oliver has to convince the greedy corporate stereotype to go ahead with production of an inexpensive and practical water burning engine is unfathomable. Like THAT would not be the most revolutionary and profitable invention of the century?
Finally, where was the humor? Au Pair 1 mixed the drama with humor and comeuppance. (Remember Jenny’s first fiance?) This movie was basically humorless aside from the occasional ramblings of the eccentric writer character. Where was the montage scene like that wonderful department store fashion adventure from the first film?
The cast literally comes together to solve Oliver’s problem for about 30 seconds at the end. Nearly all the diverse character’s problems were resolved too late or in a shallow manner. It takes more than the cast jumping into a pool to put family back into this beloved Family Channel franchise.
If you care about the characters of Au Pair and what they have done with their lives since Au Pair II, you need to watch Au Pair III. However do not go in expecting the charm, humor, or even the plot structure of the previous entries.
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See a little more of Kathleen Mealia in Top Ten Pretty Shots Volume 1.