Au Pair [1999]

When Curtiz and talented others put together Casablanca in 1942, it was just a job. The studio rushed it out in nine weeks; it went slightly over budget and had last minute screenplay issues. However in the end just the right combination of elements amazingly came together surprising and surpassing expectations. (Like Captain America’s shield, but we digress.)

Uh... no. Not THAT Casablanca. (Wait, "Sass 'n Brass" are appearing? Count us in!)

We do not know what Au Pair series fathers Sherman and Griffiths were anticipating when Au Pair was being filmed, but we doubt they thought it would be one of the most popular films ever made for the Family Channel (be repeated constantly, and spawn two sequels). But like Casablanca, it was just the right combination of elements at just the right time.

One of those elements was apparently "Eurotrash".

Ah, 1999. The last pre mobile phone era. (What is with that phone on the right? Did they borrow it from the "Land of the Giants" set?)

Our patented synopsis in a sentence: Jenny is a smart girl with a business degree and no job prospects so she takes on a nanny gig for rich widower Oliver who is kindhearted but a little dense, has two spoiled children, and is being manipulated into marriage by uber shrew Vivian until Jenny teaches the children the value of a dollar and renews Oliver’s spirit with a pure heart… and a couple hawt dresses.

See how money makes bratty kids happy? (There is definitely a lesson here.)

Heidi Lenhart's Jenny at maximum nerd.

The timing was just right in 1999. The Family Channel was riding high, people were getting rich with dot coms, and every average Joe saw a chance to become a millionaire. Jenny resonated trying to find her way with earnestness and good ideas. So many out there look for a chance. A hope that along the way they will be recognized, find success and true love. (Not us in the Fortress of course, but we digress.)

Jenny's boyfriend Charlie Cruikshank (yes, pronounced CROOK-shank). HIS efforts to find "true love" were... less than genuine. (*cough* Loser.)

See what Jane Sibbett must endure for the roles she so qualifies for? (Is that dress comprised of post-its?)

The movie was not a big-budget extravaganza nor some experimentally shot tour de force. Still (or perhaps because) it commands attention with classic cinematography,  and beloved, well done character stereotypes. We are not against them here in the Fortress. They can be quite entertaining. Vivian was the (stereotypical and perhaps typecast) role Jane Sibbett was born to play. Such delicious patrician, gold digging attitude.

Jane Sibbett's Vivian: Evil shrew.

Gregory Harrison may be a made-for-TV staple, but the likeable and slightly absent minded businessman is right up his alley. Forget all those Lifetime channel appearances where 97% of the time someone is pushed down stairs. Au Pair was an upbeat tale that leaves you feeling better. A novelty we know!

Gregory Harrison dressed in a tux and angry.

Gregory Harrison dressed as a sandman and angry.

Heidi Lenhart has great “girl next door” good looks. You believed her as Jenny the frumpy business major, and as Jenny the girl rocking the hawt dresses. Her wardrobe transformation scene was what we in the Fortress called “a minute and a half of pure movie making”. However time (or lawyers) were not kind to these 90 seconds. In one of those “stupid licensing things” the “Pretty Woman” song to which the scene was so nicely edited was replaced by something far inferior. (Why our favorite scene? Why?!) So see if you can get an earlier version (and spare yourself this cinematic tragedy).

The famous wardrobe transition montage moving Jenny from frump to fair.

Jenny tries on fabulous clothes... apparently near a giant indoor fan.

Dude, you're like 10. We do not think you should like it this much.

The youths did a good job portraying bratty rich kids who learn important life lessons and overcome the loss of their mother. Good ol’ John Rhys Davies plays a supporting role as (mega-stereotypical) butler Nigel. He adds gravitas to the production.

In some countries, this is considered child abuse.

"Looks dangerous. YOU go first. ...Oh sorry, that was one of my lines from Indiana Jones." (Hair stylist to the set!)

We do not know what to say to you if you still have no desire to try this charming film. Is your heart made of silicon? Was it broken in 8th grade? Perhaps a dirtied down depressing travesty like the Syfy Channel’s version of Battlestar Galactica is your kind of TV fare. If so, this movie where the mean get comeuppance and love triumphs in the end is not for you.

Oh yeah. Charlie Cruikshank gets his comeuppance!

Check out our take on:

Au Pair III: Adventure in Paradise [2009]

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3 thoughts on “Au Pair [1999]

  1. Thanks so much for this lovely write up on the original Au Pair movie. It did have some magic, beyond what Mark Griffith and I contributed. The first and second Au Pair movies were as wonderful as they are in large part to the contributions of Cheryl Saban, my co-writer and one of our Executive Producers. Cheryl put her own lovely touches on the Au Pair franchise and really helped discover and mold the demographic for Fox Family and ABC Family, which it became. Also integral to the quality and success of the first two installments were our other Executive Procuder, Lance Robbins and our terrific line producer, Mike Elliott. Our core cast was truly terrific and I have always been touched that they loved the first two enough to gather again to make a third. The Au Pair films were true labors of love for everyone involed and I only wish they would release the trilogy on DVD or via streaming. Thanks again for the lovely review.

    Jeff Sherman

    • Thank you for stopping by Jeff. We appreciate your sense of humor and discernment. Whether or not you are amused by our kooky captions and writing style, underneath it all you clearly see how much we enjoyed this film.

      We are pleased you were able to acknowledge some of the others responsible for this series. Indeed, the fact that the core cast was willing to return to film the third installment was a sign of their affection for it and the quality relationships you built. It seemed that Katie, Jake and Heidi were not even pursuing their acting careers at the time of III yet still returned.

      Some sort of stream or disc set would be fitting for distribution. We know it has the lasting popularity. The opportunity to own all three installments for a reasonable price may attract many. (Of course, we would hope for the original wardrobe montage scene music.) We wonder if there is a chance the circumstances will be right for another installment worthy of the franchise. One without interference. Thanks again for stopping by. We are glad our opinion also offered positive feedback.

      And now we will inexplicably include a kooky picture from the Logan’s Run TV series starred by our very own Gregory Harrison. A picture like this could only come from the early 1970s.

      What a strange collection of characters.

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