Today I’m going to write about a different kind of movie. It isn’t great; it has too many stereotypes; and it isn’t even a clever take on the genre (take your pick: fairy godmother or selfish person learns humility). Still, it’s fun to watch – unless you did on YouTube.com like I did – and you’ll be surprised by several of the turns by actors you wouldn’t expect much from. So, I’m reviewing “Maid to Order” … it stars Ally Sheedy, who was near the end of the “Brat Pack” craze of the 1980s when she made this one. If you check it out on YouTube then it’s my recommendation not to do it through a flat-screen TV. The quality of this copy of “Maid to Order” is horrible and such problems are less magnified on a laptop or tablet.
‘Maid to Order’
(1987; 93 minutes; rated PG; directed by Amy Jones – now titled as Amy Holden Jones – and starring Ally Sheedy, Beverly D’Angelo and Michael Ontkean)
AN UNCONVENTIONAL FAIRY GODMOTHER AND A LIFE LESSON
(NOTE: I expanded this review by reorganizing it and adding opinion, some more trivia and the updating of links on Jan. 21, 2018.)
It’s easy not to like the thought of “Maid to Order.” It has Ally Sheedy, stereotypes, clichés abound and everything works out perfectly in the end. Bleeecchhh, right? Let’s not judge so quickly! “Maid to Order” may not have been nominated for – much less win – any awards, but it does have its moments and it has a couple of nice turns from supporting actors. Finally, despite its shortcomings, “Maid to Order” leaves you in a good mood.
The premise of “Maid to Order” has been done before: A spoiled young person has to learn how not to be spoiled, learn how to be humble and then be part of the impetus that propels everyone into happily ever after. Although it would have been all too easy to fumble this one, somehow director Amy Jones brings in one you can watch.
Ally Sheedy plays spoiled rich girl “Jessie Montgomery” and her family money keeps her partying all the time. As the film opens she’s starting to get the cold shoulder from her father (Tom Skerritt as “Charles Montgomery”), who is getting fed up with her excesses. Well, Sheedy winds up in jail but gets out and has all charges dropped because of her unconventional fairy godmother – a chain-smoking Beverly D’Angelo as “Stella Winston.” However, everything else about her past is erased, too. She doesn’t have a father, friends or money. Now, she’s on her own and needs to make her own way by herself.
You instantly see where “Maid to Order” is going, but it’s not a terrible ride. Sheedy manages to get a job at a entertainment mogul’s estate and (of course) fumbles every ball she’s asked to carry in household duties. However, she perseveres and makes friends with the staff, who she alienated through a variety of failures. However, according to script, everything pulls together in the end and she’s reunited with her father, who now remembers her and she falls in love (cue very artistically done credits).
So, let’s take a look at some of the primary cast:
- Sheedy is solid here and does all the youthful emotions very well: petulant, spoiled (there is a difference and she knows it), falsely ingratiating and finally a bit mature. Sheedy knows what she’s doing and sails through it with aplomb but stretches it a big when she calls out her fair godmother’s name in despair, “Stella! Stella!” She has also been in “ Elmo’s Fire,” “WarGames” (click here for my review) and she was totally solid in a recurring role on the terrific TV show “Psych.” Sheedy was prolific in the ’90s on screen and TV and has notched 91 credits, but hasn’t had one in nearly two years since the premiere of “X-Men: Apocalypse” in 2016.
- Golden Globe nominee D’Angelo, who is probably most remembered as the mother on the National Lampoon “Vacation” films (click here for my review of “Christmas Vacation”), is one step away from good as “Stella.” She has the smoking down pat, but doesn’t bring much enthusiasm to the role. While she had a chance to elevate both her character and the film, she looks to just have mailed it in. It would be interesting to have seen a different actor here. D’Angelo has also been in “Hair,” “American History X” and “First Love.” She was nominated for “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”
- The nicest turn in “Maid to Order” kind of comes out of left field and is shared by Oscar nominee (not for this one) Valerie Perrine and Dick Shawn, who play the distinctly different couple “Georgette and Stan Starkey.” He’s in show business and acts like a show-business schmuck and she comes off as being into herself and any other vacuous thing you can name. However, both actors bring a nice bit of humanity to their characters – both turn out to be very human once you get to know them (just watch Shawn dance with his daughter at the end). Shawn was in the original “The Producers” and “Love at First Bite” while Perrine has significantly more critically acclaimed credentials as an Oscar-nominated actress (Bob Fosse’s “Lenny” with Dustin Hoffman) and I liked her work in a small part in “The Electric Horseman” with Robert Redford (click here for my review). Shawn died at 63 of a heart attack just three months after the film’s premiere in April 1987.
- Skerritt is cool, collected and so low-key that you kind of forget him after a while here. He certainly isn’t putting out much of his considerable talent, which earned him two Golden Globe nominations. Skerritt was in the “MASH” movie (remember, no asterisks … those were only in the movie posters) as well as “Top Gun” and the critically acclaimed sci-fi horror film “Alien.”
The actors who play the other employees at the mogul’s house are Michael Ontkean as “Nick McGuire,” Merry Clayton plays “Audrey James” and Begoña Plaza plays “Maria” (why no last name?). The three are competent and keep the film on track, but not as wonderfully as they could have been. Each was a potential break-out for the movie, but it just doesn’t happen. Ontkean was in “Slap Shot,” Clayton in “Dirty Dancing” and Plaza was in “Heat” (click here for my review).
In the end, I guess you shouldn’t go out of your way to find “Maid to Order,” but if you come across it … don’t dismiss it. You can find much worse ways to spend an hour-and-a-half.
“Maid to Order” was pretty much a bomb at the box office in 1987. It was the 89th ranked film of the year with $9.8 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. It’s simply pathetic that films that did better with audiences that year included “Ernest Goes to Camp” (No. 50 with $23.5 million) and “Benji the Hunted” (No. 52 with $22.2 million). Even worse is that “Ernest” beat out the simply terrific and critically acclaimed “Raising Arizona” (No. 51 with $22.8 million). The No. 1 film was “3 Men and a Baby” with $167.7 million). Here are the films from 1987 that I’ve reviewed:
- “Adventures in Babysitting” (great youth fun) – click here for my review
- “Back to the Beach” (great Frankie & Annette) – click here for my review
- “Can’t Buy Me Love” (OK teen flick) – click here for my review
- “The Fourth Protocol” (solid espionage) – click here for my review
- “Full Metal Jacket” (outstanding Vietnam flick) – click here for my review
- “Hiding Out” (solid back-to-school drama) – click here for my review
- “Innerspace” (excellent sci-fi/action) – click here for my review
- “The Lost Boys” (excellent vampire flick) – click here to read my review
- “Mannequin” (very funny slapstick) – click here for my review
- “Near Dark” (near perfect vampire flick) – click here for my review
- “No Man’s Land” (watchable Charlie Sheen) – click here for my review
- “A Prayer for the Dying” (simply awful) – click here for my review
- “Predator” (great Arnie sci-fi) – click here for my review
- “The Running Man” (really good Arnie sci-fi) – click here for my review
- “Summer School” (good light comedy) – click here for my review
Assorted cast and film notes (via IMDb.com):
- Katey Sagal’s career would skyrocket in 1987 … but not with “Maid to Order.” She would be on the megahit TV series “Married With Children.” She has a small part here as “Louise.”
- Rain Phoenix plays “Brie Starkey” (the rich couple’s daughter) and while she was billed here as “Rainbow,” she has a wonderful real name: Rain Joan of Arc Phoenix.
- Directly from IMDb.com: “The band at the party, the Loaded Blanks, are actually the hard rock band Great White.”
- The actor with the role with no name but an occupation (“Hooker in Jail”) is Khandi Alexander, who has also been in “There’s Something About Mary” and TV’s “NewsRadio.”
- Finally and directly from IMDb.com: “Ally Sheedy had high hopes for the film, but knew she was in trouble after a pre-release screening at the Director’s Guild in Los Angeles left the audience disenchanted. Sheedy took her mother to the event, who told Ally mid-movie, ‘You’re better than the script.’”
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