In my recent review of Three Men and a Baby, I gave a run through of all the other old movies I’d found on Disney+ and stated that Adventures in Babysitting was the one I was nervous to go back to. This was mostly because I knew it wasn’t really that good to begin with. I must have been around sixteen when I saw it and while I’m not sure if that made me the intended target audience or not (more on that shortly) this was the time when I was watching The Breakfast Club, Ghostbusters, Stand by Me, Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop, Back to the Future and The Karate Kid. This film does not sit well among these 80s classics. I do remember enjoying it though.
It was my love of The Karate Kid that probably made me bring this home from the video shop in the first place as they both feature Elizabeth Shue. (She’d not done Back to the Future 2 by this stage.) I think I’d enjoyed the cheesiness of the film and it amused me that half way through Shue had waved a knife in the face of a New York gang member and said the words ‘Don’t f*€k with the babysitter’. It was a surprising moment for a film that seemed to be playing gently to a family audience and I recall it became an ironic catchphrase for my friends and I for a while afterwards. Anyway, let’s just say that Adventures in Babysitting had worked in the moment but I was very aware that that moment was now thirty years ago.
I’d thought it then and I can confirm now that Adventures in Babysitting is tonally indecisive. That f-bomb still jars but there is lots of the rest of the film that does too. This is essentially a kid’s adventure about a teenage girl and a group of her younger charges that get into hijinks in the city when they should be safely at home watching TV and eating ice-cream. Yet it is full of sexual innuendo, one of the kids is a comedy randy teenager and the MacGuffin is a porn magazine. It is too soft and inconsequential for adults and too rude for kids. It’s like Home Alone meets Animal House but with half of the impact rather than double.
The Home Alone analogy is strengthened by the fact that that film and this one are from the same director, Chris Columbus. As well as bringing the world the famous Macaulay Culkin home invasion nonsense, Columbus is also known for making Mrs Doubtfire and the first two Harry Potters. Let’s not forget that he is also the writer of Goonies and Gremlins though and it seems that this transition from edgy to family friendly is happening right here in this movie in the clumsiest way.
Interestingly now that the film has made the journey to Disney+, the swearing has been left behind. The line I had remembered so well has gone, fixed with some very obvious dubbing. Now the guy is told not to ‘fool with the babysitter’ which is amusing because that’s exactly what they’ve done with the film. Immediately before this one of the characters gets upset because someone has called the eponymous female lead a witch but I don’t think that’s what he actually called her at all. There seems to be little concern with a whole load of blasphemous expressions and the fact that at one point a twenty something women comes on strong to a fifteen year old boy but certain b-words and f-words are evidently not allowed. There must be hard core swearing on Disney+ elsewhere but it would seem mean spirited to go looking for it.
So it turns out I should have gone with my gut. Adventures in Babysitting is not worth revisiting. It is a film that seems desperate to sit alongside its contemporaries to the point of imitating them (there is a lengthy dance scene at the start that has to be inspired by Risky Business) but just fails to measure up at every turn. The constant references to superhero Thor are amusing in the light of recent cinematic trends but this is not reason enough to watch it.
Ooh, I see there’s a remake of the film on Disney+ too. I wonder if that’s any better.
I’m kidding. I’m going to watch The Rocketeer.