Another Day, Another Movie: Adventures In Babysitting (1987)

May 18, 2020
With so many of us still locked down, FilmInk offers up a movie for your astute consideration (nearly) each day.

Did a fresher, sweeter, more engaging actress than Elisabeth Shue emerge in the eighties? Sure, there might be challengers (Diane Lane, Karen Allen, Molly Ringwald, Ione Skye, Laura Dern and a few others come very, very close), but Shue manages to mix a relatable wholesomeness with a slightly more knowing quality which places her a cut above the rest. Though she first made her mark as Ralph Macchio’s sweet, sassy love interest in the classic (yes, classic) 1984 teen drama The Karate Kid, Shue’s best young adult role remains the terrific comedy Adventures In Babysitting, which was retitled A Night On The Town for its Australian theatrical release in 1987.

Released just prior to her “grown up” breakout role in the much derided Tom Cruise vehicle, Cocktail (“If I’d known that it was just going to be about these guys throwing drinks around, then I might have had second thoughts,” the actress said), Adventures In Babysitting kicks off with Shue’s sensible teen Chris Parker joyously dancing and singing in her bedroom, preparing for a date with her much-swooned-over boyfriend (um, Bradley Whitford, future star of The West Wing). It’s an energetic opening sequence, and the film rolls on wonderfully from there. When said boyfriend pulls out of their planned date, Chris glumly but good naturedly agrees to babysit little Sarah (Maia Brewton), which promptly draws in her teenage brother, Brad (Keith Coogan), who carries a sizable torch for Chris. With Brad comes his obnoxious best pal, Daryl (Anthony Rapp, now most famous for dropping the dime on Kevin Spacey), who has a gift for the gab and a lack of tact to match.

When Chris’ friend Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller) finds herself stranded at a bus station in the big, bad city (amusingly portrayed as a slithering den of inveterate lunatics), a road trip rescue is hastily staged. Chris and her three young charges, however, are soon stranded themselves when their car breaks down. While trying to get to the increasingly agitated Brenda, they cross paths with mobsters, car thieves, street gangs, blues musicians, a one-armed tow truck driver, a nice guy college student (George Newbern), and a mechanic (Vincent D’Onofrio) who bears an uncanny resemblance to a way-pre-Chris Hemsworth Thor. In a running joke that would unlikely play today, further wrinkles are added by the fact that Chris just happens to be a swap for that month’s Playboy Playmate…

In his directorial debut, Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Harry Potter) delivers a poppy, rollicking, wildly entertaining comedy adventure that plays out like a less idiosyncratic youthful version of Martin Scorsese’s 1985 cult gem After Hours. In fact, it’s almost as charming as its lovely leading lady…

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