Like similar family melodramas, from the independent film The Myth of Fingerprints to the made-for-cable outing The Twilight of the Golds, this TV movie-of-the-week lays on the dysfunction a bit too thickly. Despite a few mawkish moments and the familiarity of its domestic conflicts, though, Doing Time on Maple Drive proves an effective portrait of middle-class angst. A pre-Ace Ventura Jim Carrey drinks and mopes his way through an underwritten part as an alcoholic loser; in one early scene, he has to grandstand and give the poorly written speech from which the program derives its title. But William McNamara and Jayne Brook, as his siblings, turn in relatively subtle performances as two more victims of parental ambition. It's the parents themselves, however, who make the film: The superb Bibi Besch is all ladies club hauteur as the social-climbing Lisa Carter, while James B. Sikking gets to finesse not one but two hairpin changes of heart as her controlling but ultimately befuddled husband, Phil. As for the supporting characters, Lori Loughlin gets some good scenes as the society girl preparing to marry into the family, while David Byron, as the son-in-law whose pithy comments provide the audience with its window into the family's problems, exercises restraint even when forced to mouth self-righteous monologues. Cramming several button-pushing issues -- homosexuality, suicide, abortion, alcoholism, and parental ambition -- into one TV movie, the Emmy-nominated Doing Time on Maple Drive marked a successful second foray behind the camera for actor Ken Olin.
by Brian J. Dillard review