The final part in a trilogy of reviews looking at 80s comedy films that set-up ultimate disaster for their hapless characters. It’s 1987 and Elisabeth Shue is babysitting the kids in Chris Columbus’ Adventures In Babysitting. Daniel Stephens reviews.
Adventures In Babysitting is like the kids equivalent of Indiana Jones, formed from endless eighties teen coming-of-age films and built on the then increasing empowerment of women in Hollywood movies. Elisabeth Shue gets to play ‘hero’ and once again proves that babysitting in a Hollywood film is far from uneventful. I wonder if it is at all possible that a babysitter might avoid death or coming close to it in a film that portrays the job? We’ve seen it done with tongue firmly in cheek when the babysitter snuffs it in Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead, and we’ve seen it done with tongue probably cut out of cheek in Candyman. Laurie Strode’s babysitting exploits are well documented in John Carpenter’s brilliant slasher Halloween, while the phone won’t stop ringing the lovely babysitter in Fred Walton’s When A Stranger Calls – of course there’s only a sadistic killer on the other end claiming to want to taste her blood. And so it appears that if an adventure movie were to ever come out of one of western societies most accepted attributes, babysitting the little runts is probably a high contender. After all, something’s bound to go wrong.
In Adventures In Babysitting Chris Parker (Elisabeth Shue) agrees to look after her usual clientele after her boyfriend stands her up. Settling down to TV movies and ice-cream, her evening is suddenly awakened when her best friend calls from a pay phone telling her she’s run away from home but then changed her mind, and is now stuck in a seedy Chicago bus station begging to be ‘rescued’. Chris gathers her ‘little’ friends made up of young girl Sara, her older brother Brad and his friend Daryl, and sets off in the car heading for the inner-city. Of course, something has to go wrong and sure enough it does. One thing leads to another and the kids end up having an adventure of mishaps and near-misses – escaping criminals, dodging a mad husband and making the acquaintance of a mythical superhero.
Chris Columbus has always been a director who manages to make thin material appear to have much more substance. He did it gleefully with Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire and Nine Months, and his charming signature is all over Adventures In Babysitting too. There’s a sense of adventure rooted in the small things of life that is so prevalent in his work, like the ‘adventure’ a couple go on when they have a baby in Nine Months or the ‘adventure’ a child can have when his parents accidentally leave him at home in Home Alone. When the kids get lost in the big city, Columbus is in his element, happily throwing them into different situations and watching what might happen. It all occurs in storybook fashion, almost like we are seeing chapters from a book with each mishap they find themselves in, wrapped up in each little chapter. It makes for great cartoon-style fun, and the actors led by Elisabeth Shue do a decent job of keeping it all together. Columbus never allows the film to get too sentimental but it is unfortunate that jittery, frightened Penelope Ann Miller, playing Shue’s best friend, isn’t in the film more because her performance is much better than anyone else.
Adventures In Babysitting is a film about kids that reminds adults what it was like when Santa Claus was real and the Tooth Fairy really did leave money under your pillow. It’s one of those films that lacks any pretension and doesn’t take itself too seriously, allowing the freedom of a child’s mind to dream of bad guys, bad places, and bad situations but with the notion that one’s going to wake up at the end of it. Chris Columbus’ film is warm, very funny and always entertaining.
The picture is presented in its original theatrical aspect of 1.85:1. Unfortunately the image is not anamorphic enhanced but this doesn’t seem to cause too much of a problem. The colours are a little muted but detail and sharpness are very good. The print is in very good condition but the lack of anamorphic enhancement only magnifies what imperfections there are, and this can be distracting.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is reasonably good with good separation across the front channels and dialogue is clear.
Adventures In Babysitting is a fun film that works as an afternoon time-waster for the kids but adults can certainly enjoy it too. Its childlike view on the world is nostalgic without been overly sentimental, and above all else it’s entertaining and doesn’t outstay its welcome. The DVD is adequate but could have been a lot better.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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