Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead

Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead

A brilliant look at early nineties family, and more importantly teen life. Firstly, teen movies of today all seem to be set in school, and involve getting a date or a shag. Usually every character is hollow except the main one who we are supposed to cheer for, but more often than not they are hollow too. The actors are chosen for their looks and although they mostly give competent performances, they give nothing special, the film offers no insight, and nothing much happens. This is why Buffy (series) shone so brightly-brilliant stories, brilliant acting, extremely well developed characters. But it probably isn’t fair to compare a long running TV show to a crappy film. However, DTMTBD proves that teen comedies do not have to be hollow and lack humour, but can have a good story, good performances, many funny moments, and offer a message about life other than the rubbish spouted nowadays.

DTMTBD is set in the summer holidays, far from school, just the way we like it. The Crandalls are a large, fatherless family, and their mom needs a break, going to Europe for the whole summer. The 5 children believe they are going to be left alone to party etc for 3 months, but of course that does not happen, and they each learn a lesson about life. It may sound cheesy, but the dark humour ensures that there is a balance. Sue Ellen is the oldest, but is only 17, and therefore mum hires a babysitter. At first it seems that the kids will still be able to do as they please, but it turns out that the babysitter has been sent from the deepest darkest depths of Hell. (met. speak) She sets down rules, chores and is going to prevent them from having any fun.

However, when she sees Kenny’s (oldest son) room she has a heart-attack and dies. They decide to get rid of the body in a good, respectful way, and continue with their lives-taking her car too of course. All goes well until the car, along with their money is stolen. Their summer allowance is gone 1 week in, but rather than give in to their mum they decide to struggle on. Sue Ellen gets a job, the rest mess about, and soon tensions arise. Melissa (danielle Harris) is annoyed because no-one came to her baseball match, while the others struggle with girls and personal injuries. Sue Ellen has no clue about her job, lying on her CVto get it, but the money is rolling in, and she has her own boy troubles. Sue-Ellen comes to the rescue of her boss, deciding to hold a fashion show at her house, where the rest of the family finally help out. Of course, nothing goes smoothly.

It is a light-hearted look at teen life, fear of the future, wanting responsibility but not knowing how to cope with it, trying to balance a job, friends, family, work, boyfriend etc, but the often dark humour is very funny. Kenny provides many funny moments, getting the dog stoned and shooting the dishes rather than cleaning them, while Danielle Harris gives another brilliant performance in a small role. Applegate is perfect, delivering her lines with smooth wit and sarcasm, and showing the pressure she is under with skill. Other funny moments involve Sue-Ellen’ antics with her boss’s lover, and there are plenty of one-liners. The one about the cucumber and the one about Santa Barbara are memorable. Kenny learns that he can still be cool if he goes to school, and that life is not for sitting around, while Sue-Ellen learns that trying to grow up too quick can be dangerous. The movie says that None of us really grow up, we just get older and while this happens we should never forget who we are. As silly and contrived as it sounds it is true none the less, and few films convey this better.

Unfortunately there is nothing extra on the DVD. A retrospective documentary would have been nice.

As always, feel free to share your comments/memories of the movie. Were you a fan of this growing up? Has it stood the test of time?

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