Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead (1991) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language and drug content
Running Time: 102 min.
Cast: Christina Applegate, Joanna Cassidy, Keith Coogan, Josh Charles, John Getz, Concetta Tomei, David Duchovny, Kimmy Robertson, Jayne Brook, Eda Reiss Merin, Robert Hy Gorman, Danielle Harris, Christopher Pettiet
Director: Stephen Herek
Screenplay: Neil Landau, Tara Ison
Review published March 25, 2006
When their annoying mother leaves for two months, five precocious siblings are left under the care of an elderly, but quite authoritarian, babysitter, who, as the title reveals, ends up dead. Not wanting to be blamed for the deed, they tell no one about it, not even their own mother, who they fear will return home should she realize that they are lacking adult supervision. The kids see this as a great chance to have fun and do whatever they want, at least until they realize that they have no money, and hardly anything to eat. To keep food on the table, the eldest sibling, Sue Ellen (Applegate, The Big Hit), puts on a business suit and pretends to be much older, and with a phony resume, she ends up becoming the personal assistant to a well-to-do executive in the clothing manufacturing industry, although she doesn't reveal that she doesn't have any skills. Swell (Sue Ellen's nickname) finds out the hard way that juggling a career and parenting bratty kids isn't easy.
A fluffy teen comedy with some irreverent dark humor might seem like a fun time, and it is to a certain extent, but never really as much as you would think given the title and tone of the film. The premise is exceedingly far-fetched, merely contrived in order to try to score some easy laughs, and while amusing things do occur, solid laughs are few and far between.
This would be the first big starring role for TV star Christina Applegate, filming this in between seasons of "Married with Children". She shows some comedic appeal, but lacks the screen presence to make the movie as a whole feel like something more substantial. Perhaps the best comedic performance comes from Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner, The Late Show) as Swell's boss, Rose, who exhibits every bit of the ever-smiling corporate businesswoman that delegates all of her responsibilities away so that she can do the more glamorous stuff. Future star David Duchovny (Return to Me, Evolution) has a small role as one of Swell's more antagonistic co-workers.
As the teen movie craze of the 1980s began to wind down, films like Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead had only a modest appeal, feeling more like John Hughes' hand-me-downs than as an inspired idea for a major motion picture release. This one was created by marketing reports and borrowed popular themes from other, better films. However. if you're a teen movie fanatic, especially for those released in the 80s and early 90s, you'll probably find this to be a pleasantly energetic, innocuous comedy, designed to provide mild amusement and nothing more.
©2006 Vince Leo