By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: She’s got babysittin’ blues.
After being stood up on a date high school senior Chris Parker (Elisabeth Shue) decides to take one last babysitting job. It is for the Anderson family and their two children: 7-year-old Sara (Maia Brewton) and her 15-year-old brother Brad (Keith Coogan), who secretly has a crush on Chris. Things start out okay, but then her best friend Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller) calls stating that she is stranded at a rundown bus station and needs Chris’s help to get home. Despite her better judgment Chris decides to pack up the kids into her mother’s station wagon as well as Brad’s friend Darryl (Anthony Rapp) and takes them into the city to save her friend only to end up dealing with one disaster after another.
Shue’s presence, in her first starring role, is what really makes this movie work. She is not only beautiful, but shows perfect comic timing and despite the fact that she was already 24 at the time of filming still looks like a teen albeit on the very mature side. The kids though aren’t as good and although they do grow on you a bit as the movie progresses it would’ve worked better had she being babysitting a family of mutes. The Brad character is too bland and clean-cut, his friend Darryl is too obnoxious and the young Sara, who wears a stupid looking, winged, metal helmet for almost the entire movie comes off like an annoying little brat.
Miller’s Brenda character is the most irritating as she is ditzy and airheaded to the extreme and her scenes come off as forced humor at its worst. Since all the calamity starts when they get a flat tire I thought they could’ve used a different motivation for driving into the city, like going for ice cream or to a movie and cut the Brenda character out completely since it ends up being the film’s weakest part.
Although the setting is in Chicago and most of the scenes were filmed there a few of them weren’t including the frat house party, the restaurant scene and Anderson’s residence which were all done in Toronto. Either way it tends to paint Chicago in an unflattering light by playing up its urban stigma and for a film that seems squarely aimed at the preteen crowd it has some surprisingly edgy elements including 17-year-old prostitutes, a story thread dealing with a Playboy centerfold and even a few F-bombs.
However, on the whole it’s quite funny and entertaining; much funnier than I was expecting. I even found myself sitting on the edge of my seat in a few places including the scene where they have to walk across some ceiling rafters to escape from the bad guys as well as a tense, well-filmed climatic segment done on the glass roof of a skyscraper. The segment where Chris narrates her babysitting adventures to the background music of a blues band is great and her line “Don’t fuck with the babysitter!” which she states to an intimidating gang leader is classic.
In many ways this is quite similar to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but better. The comic scenarios aren’t quite as over-the-top, the adults aren’t so painfully stupid and the main character is thankfully not as smug. Like in Ferris there is also an amusing moment shown after the end credits, which I found to be just as funny.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Released: July 1, 1987
Runtime: 1Hour 42Minutes
Director: Chris Columbus
Studio: Buena Vista Pictures
Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video