Slapstick comedy and lowbrow charm override directorial clumsiness in “Maid,” a frequently hilarious, if uneven, Thai laffer centered on four maids working as undercover agents. This latest effort by helmer Yongyoot Thongkongtoon (camp hit “The Iron Ladies”) has been cleaning up at the local box office since Christmas and, though the film is packed with linguistic humor, its gleefully unsophisticated, pratfall style could click offshore, particularly in Asian markets. Some PC-minded Western territories could be put off by the pic’s iffy racial elements, mostly to do with Burma’s Karen minority.
In an effort to expose gangsters cozying up to dishonest politicians, anti-corruption officer Prasert (Somlek Sakdikul) plants two operatives posing as domestics in the home of a government official. However, the two women — lithe and exuberant Waew (Pornchita Na Songkra) and her squat, short-tempered sister, Jim (Jatupus Pattamasiri) — are as amateurish as their methods are unorthodox. Endeavoring to bug the cell phones of all the shady figures involved, the pair end up in a series of compromising situations.
While their quarries remain blissfully unaware of these Thai Charlie’s Angels, Waew and Jim instantly blow their cover with two other junior maids. They then enlist real maids Aey (Panalak Na Lumpang) and Cat (Jarunee Boonsake) into the enterprise. The quartet embarks on a ramshackle mission to infiltrate the homes of crime bosses and politicians to download incriminating computer records.
Irreverent and scatological asides abound. Performances are rough, but the ensemble radiates good vibes even when the comedy is at its most vindictive. Local TV star Na Songkra and relative newcomer Pattamasiri make for a comfortable, comedic pairing that resembles a Sandra Bullock-Rosie O’Donnell act. Boonsake is also amusing as the “Butterfly McQueen”-style Karen maid, whose main motivation for cooperating is to garner Thai citizenship.
Helming is lackluster, and tech package lower draw, with no more visual smarts than in Thongkongtoon’s previous efforts. Narrative inconsistencies also suggest the film has been over-zealously trimmed to maintain comic momentum.
Use of the singular “Maid” in the local English title can be explained by Na Songkra’s star status on home turf, as well as by the lack of any distinction between singular and plural in the Thai language. For international release, the title “M.A.I.D. (Mission Almost Impossible Done)” is being mulled.