Do Fox Family movies really need sequels? That question is answered quite clearly with “Au Pair II,” a limp second-go of the popular telepic that aired in 1999. “Au Pair” was a well- executed fairy tale about mismatched lovebirds, and drew the cabler’s largest audience ever. This time around, however, the relationship between a tycoon and the nanny he’s hired to mind the children is already firmly established, so what’s left to discover? Nothing much.
Handsome billionaire Oliver Caldwell (Gregory Harrison) is back, primed to merge his company with a European conglom headed by the stately, compassionate Karl Sennhauser (Rory Knox Johnson). But there to wreck the deal are Sennhauser’s bratty heirs, Cassandra (Rachel York) and Michael (Robin Dunne), two nasty moneymongers who want Oliver out of the picture so they can call the shots.
In order to ruin Oliver’s life, they try to pull him apart from Jenny (Heidi Lenhart), the comely babysitter Oliver employed in round one who has now moved into the boardroom — and into his heart.
With lies, deceit and a sneaky photog who stages uncompromising positions of Jenny in order to raise Oliver’s doubts before his wedding day, Cassandra and Michael are sure they have sabotaged the takeover. Their disinformation campaign has also apparently won over Nell (June Lockhart), Oliver’s late-wife’s mother, who can’t stand Jenny’s simple, folksy manner.
But the evil plan has to make it past Oliver’s innovative and savvy pre-teens, Alex (Jake Dinwiddie) and Kate (Katie Volding), ever the schemers they were in the original “Au Pair.” This time, they place walkie-talkies in all the right places so as to foil any potential plot against their dad.
Biggest problem with “Au Pair II” is its shallowness; while the predecessor was hardly deep and meaningful, it had plenty of “Cinderella” charm. This time the pranks are sillier and overblown, the “enemies” are adults who don’t act or speak like adults, and the narrative, directed with too much slapstick by Mark Griffiths (who helmed “Au Pair” with more finesse), is farfetched.
Perfs are uneven. Harrison remains quite charming; he behaves like someone who could run a major corporation (even though no business actually gets done in “Au Pair II”). But Lenhart is jilted, relegated to trophy wife status. Her role was so integral — and her appeal so immense — in the first feature, it’s a surprise to see how little she’s given to do here.
Like its predecessor, tech credits — especially the locations — are tops all around. Filmed in Prague, the snowcapped mountains, monstrous castles and lush scenery are much appreciated.