Monday, February 21, 2000
Adventures in Babysitting / *** (1987)
The film stars Elizabeth Shue as Chris Parker, a high-school Senior who devotes much of her time and energy to her much older boyfriend. But when he shows up one morning to cancel an important date, Chris is encouraged to spend the evening baby-sitting a neighbor's daughter and son while their parents are at an important dinner date in the city. The idea is not the most exciting thing on her agenda, but she accepts regardless.
The evening gets off to a typical start, with Chris meeting the two children (a girl named Sara who has an obsession with Thor, and a teen named Brad who has secretly generated a crush on Chris at school) as their parents set off for their busy evening. She expects to sit down to a routine, quiet night when her best friend calls up on the phone, alone at the bus station without money after an attempt to run away from home has apparently failed. Since the stop is deep in the city, Chris takes the two children along with her to rescue her desperate friend.
Along for the ride is Daryl, a horny and perverted teenager who shares the same crush as his best friend, Brad. Halfway down the freeway a tire goes flat. Simple problem, right? Wrong--Chris' parents have neglected to restock the spare. The next plan: flag someone down to go buy another. Next problem: Chris has forgotten her checkbook. Such solutions and problems arise further into the story, and the four individuals eventually wind up in a truck of a man with a hook in place of a missing hand. Further tension thickens when they attempt to hide in a nearby car after the man attacks his wife's lover at his home, and the car is hijacked by a member of a secret thief operation in the heart of downtown.
Very seldom do we believe any of these things are possible, though; most baby-sitting adventures are the kind that take place at home when little brats drop paint on the carpet, set fire to a bedroom, or give the family pets a home perm. Yet they are exciting in their own, warped way--some of the situations are like fantasies of a child's dreams, in which they take all sorts of everyday scenarios and supply them with fearsome but daring antics. There is one peculiar but fun scene in which the four kids, chased down by determined employees of the car theft ring, wind up inside a blues club in which the current act demands that they continue on his entertainment ("no one leaves here without singing the blues"). Other similar occurrences: the four wind up on an empty subway, and are suddenly cornered by two rival gangs armed with switchblades and bad tempers (Brad, one of the teens, winds up taking a mild knife wound in the foot); later, they are chased farther into the city and, ironically, to the very building in which Sara and Brad's parents are at a party. All of this stuff happens with swiftness and determination; clocking in at approximately 102 minutes, the movie covers a lot of ground, but speeds up the pace in order to do so with its given time limit.
The script depends much on coincidences to heighten the excitement, although most of them are a little transparent and lack the necessary tension. The most flawed, and perhaps unnecessary, sequence involves the little girl Sara scaling the outside windows of a large high rise in hopes of hiding from those chasing her down. One of the bad guys "heroically" steps out on the ledge to save her, only to get caught himself as she is saved by her baby-sitter. This dreary climax not only lacks momentum, but fails to live up to the thrills of the previous adventures in the city.
"Adventures In Babysitting" is hardly an involving misadventure for suburb kids in a vast city. But it has fun with itself, and that's important; given this type of straightforward material, one cannot expect to find much to enjoy unless, at first, the script is able to realize it's evident simplicity and relish in the clichés. At that point, the characters are cut free from their restrictions and allowed to explore areas of the city not usually seen in those pretty postcards with the words "wish you were here" stamped on front. This is really just innocent material with a tendency to flout basic guidelines and stray from the perimeters of believability. Then again, when has there ever been a movie this fun without at first being implausible?
Written by DAVID KEYES
Comedy (US); 1987; Rated PG-13; 102 Minutes
Produced by Debra Hill and Lynda Obst; Directed by Chris Columbus; Screenwritten by David Simkins