I was reading a top ten movies from the eighties list a few months ago and this was the only movie that was on the list I didn’t own, so I found it for $5 on amazon and grabbed it.
The movie stars Elisabeth Shue as high school student Chris (although she looks at least 25) who’s date with Trophy Wife‘s husband (Bradley Whitford) gets cancelled at the last minute. Because she now has nothing to do, she agrees to do her regular babysitting gig. The family have two children, Brad, a 15 year old boy who clearly has a crush on his older babysitter, and Sara, a young daughter who has a fascination with the comic book character Thor. Just after Chris has settled in for a boring night of child watching, she gets a call from her panicked best friend (Penelope Ann Miller) who is stranded at a train station in downtown Chicago and begs her friend to come and pick her up. Shue reluctantly agrees and takes the kids and the boy’s best friend to go pick her friend up. Obviously, antics ensue and not much goes to plan during the night. The bulk of the film involves Elisabeth Shue trying to get to her friend and get the kids back home before their parents get home.
This is good slapstick fun. It is a typical eighties/early nineties teen comedy involving cute girls and obnoxious children. Shue plays the part of a stressed out babysitter having a really tough night well. The only issue I had with her character was that she’s obviously in her mid twenties, not a high school senior like her character is supposed to be. It’s not a huge drama though, especially considering this is not the first time a 25 year old has played a teenager. 90210 and Dawson’s Creek are great examples of this happening in the past, I believe some of those actors were in their thirties and playing high school freshmen, which is far more ridiculous.
The characters in this movie are fairly generic, but the story and the actors’ chemistry with each other is what saves it. You believe the two children are siblings the way they bicker with each other, like brother and sisters do. But then you also see her brother step up when his sister needs him like any good big brother. The story is paced well and it is never really unbelievable that this group encounter one roadblock after another on their travels.
This movie is also directed by Chris Columbus, in his directorial debut. He is good here and you can see his impact as the film is similar in tone to some of his other classics like Home Alone. One of his strengths is working with kids, as is evident by his work in the Home Alone films and the first two Harry Potter movies. It’s on show again here as the cast is generally young, and the younger actors steal many of the scenes they’re in. I really loved the randomness of having Sara love Thor. This was well before the Marvel movies had taken off, and Thor is such a random character to have her be infatuated with.
I liked this movie. It’s no Breakfast Club, but it’s good clean fun for a lazy Sunday lounging around.
Controversial opinion: Elisabeth Shue > Molly Ringwald. Sure, if I were a teenage girl in the 80s, I would probably have identified more with Pretty in Pink’s Andie Walsh. But I would have wanted to be Adventures in Babysitting‘s Chris Parker. (Minus the babysitting– I didn’t like kids when I was a teen.)
This is a typical over-the-top 80s teen comedy, where an everyday situation goes hilariously awry. Shue is asked to babysit, but when her friend needs to be picked up in downtown Chicago she is forced to take her charges along for the ride. While her charm and good looks gain the group help along the way, Chris’ real strength comes from keeping a level head and thinking on her feet. What girl wouldn’t want to be like that?
And while some movies don’t age particularly well, I think Adventures in Babysitting has actually come back around. For instance, Chris’ main charge, Sara is obsessed with comic book hero Thor. Funny to think that many kids in the 1990s and early 2000s would have wondered who the God of Thunder was given Marvel’s incredible popularity now. Sara’s primary colored wardrobe and bedroom is also a breath of fresh air after seeing so many pink clad princesses in recent years. Funny how a 26 year old movie can seem so fresh.
Rating: B+ (only because the soundtrack is lacking in the 80s pop department)