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Saturday, 24 September 2016

Retro Review: Adventures in Babysitting (1987)

Adventures In Babysitting 
Cast: Elisabeth Shue, Penelope Ann Miller, Vincent D'Onofrio, George Newbern, Maia Brewton, Keith Coogan, Anthony Rapp, Bradley Whitford
Genre: Comedy
U.S Lifetime Gross: over $34 million

Plot: A babysitter must battle her way through the big city after being stranded there with the kids she's looking after

'A Rare, & In Many Cases Undervalued Comedy, That Was a Brief & Future Glimpse Of What Was To Come From Home Alone & Mrs Doubtfire's Chris Columbus'

Adventures in Babysitting is in the mode of traditional adventure movies, where the four young characters find themselves on a roller-coaster of adventures and meeting some strange and dangerous characters along the way. It is also one of those movies that were talked about back in the mid-1980s that I never saw. In America where the movie blew up anyway. For no particular reason, I never came across this movie as a child. It was one of those things that went unnoticed. It wasn't until 2012 or something that I'd first read about it on the internet, although I almost passed up on it, as I assumed it wouldn't be something that I'd enjoy personally myself. That it would be a typical teen comedy with not much to offer. However, it definitely made a positive and good impression on me. 

The film also marks the directorial debut of Chris Columbus, who later achieved blockbuster success with Mrs Doubtfire and Home Alone, the first two Harry Potter entries and to a lesser extent, Stepmom. Chris Columbus's movies are definitely reminiscent of those of John Hughes's efforts, and of whom he's worked with: off-the-wall humour, some unexpected surprises that come out of nowhere at times. And this one is no exception. 

In actuality, Adventures in Babysitting is a more expanded version of Home Alone, minus the booby traps and that most of the action and shenanigans occur outside of the home. 

In Elisabeth Shue's first major onscreen role as high school senior Chris Parker, her date with boyfriend, Mike is cancelled at the last minute by himself and she winds up babysitting two kids, who are from a wealthy family. Though they are content in staying in the house, Chris gets a phone call from her friend, Brenda (played by Penelope Ann Miller), who has run away from home & is trapped somewhere in Chicago with virtually no funds and needs Chris's help in rescuing her. There is one problem though: Chris can't go AWOL and leave the kids at home all by herself. Why, because the kids will tell their parents what she did and she'd be in bigger trouble. So to avoid all this, Chris gathers up Brad, his younger sister, Sara who is obsessed with the Marvel superhero, Thor and Brad's friend, Daryl and they all set out on an adventure they will ultimately remember for the rest of their lives. 

After her stint in Back to the Future 2 and 3 as Michael J. Fox's Marty McFly's girlfriend and the original The Karate Kid, the release of this movie occurred during a period when Elisabeth Shue was touted as the next best major Hollywood female player to soar to new heights, as achieved by the likes of Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Aniston to name. She was one of those actresses who could hold her own in a movie: whether that'll be in this effort, screwball caper Soapdish, 1988's Cocktail with Tom Cruise, Leaving Las Vegas or sci-fi thriller, Hollow Man. With long, blonde hair, she very much reminds me of a young Jessica Lange. Her natural -yet credible and pleasing performance is the glue that firmly binds this film together, amidst all the crazy chaos that takes place. That and she has a great rapport with the younger, as well as other actors. She may have gone on to attain more dramatic roles later on in her career, but Elisabeth Shue demonstrates in Adventures in Babysitting that she has a knack for comedy, and it is a tad shame that other than 1991's Soapdish, Shue hasn't had more of the quality light-hearted projects that would've allowed her to play a much less serious character or comedic role that, without a shadow of a doubt, she would have easily excelled at. 

The film has plenty of intrigue, surprises, twists and suspense too. It's got that mystery element/feel to it and has nostalgia value galore and is definitely a byproduct of the 1980s. Whilst the plot twists become odder, the plot and events within the narrative are intricately linked together and as the film progresses, it becomes increasingly more and more compelling and watchable. 

I was little taken aback that a film with this particular plot and setting would have some swearing and nudity. Whilst on the train, one of the gang members refers to Chris as a B**** and in the same scene Chris goes ''Don't F*** with the babysitter!''. That was also arguably the highlight of this film to see this regular babysitter not taking crap from the gangs & telling it like it is, damn straight. I was also interested in learning that Elizabeth Shue was just 23 back in 1987 but she was playing a 17-yr-old. Looking at her in this movie, I wouldn't have thought she was 23. The movie also features a Blond-haired Vincent D'Onofrio (Strange Days, Mystic Pizza) as a mechanic. 

It was interesting to see the kids going on the run and to avoid being caught and meeting all these different types of characters along the way. That premise, which was an ongoing theme throughout and the way these events unfolded, made it extremely watchable. It doesn't pander to or resort to dumbed down farce humour. The humour is not over-the-top or too silly, as well as that the film maintains its fun factor all along the way. 

Final Verdict: 

There is a uniqueness, quirkiness and unfamiliarity that Chris Columbus achieves here in contrast to Home Alone and more so with the latter, Mrs Doubtfire. This somewhat obscure film, which has gone on to attain a cult following over the years, is a bold attempt and as his first feature effort, it's a mighty impressive one as he ups the ante in the adventure stakes and it definitely lives up to its title. But it's the interesting plot twists that what makes this amusing adventure movie so good and entertaining, as well as managed to maintain my interest. 

The performances are fantastic and it's great to see a younger Elisabeth Shue and the equally understated, Penelope Ann Miller flexing their acting chops, as well as their star potential coming to fruition that is supported by a good cast and an engaging, light-hearted and entertaining script. 

The original Adventures in Babysitting is a fun, teen-style romp of a movie to watch but for younger children, due to some of the R-rated language and is definitely a film I'd recommend to those who enjoy action-adventure comedies. 


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