Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Adventures in Babysitting

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly look at one of the many, many movies in my hove video library, where I watch it and wonder why the heck I bought it.  Today, we get to a much-beloved 1980s teen comedy, Adventures in BabysittingThis entry is originally dated April 1, 2012.

I've had a very good weekend.  A quiet weekend, a relaxing weekend, a weekend of catching up on all the DVDs I've recently acquired that I haven't had the opportunity to watch.  And today, we get to the bottom of the "to watch" pile with Adventures in Babysitting.

This fondly-remembered teen comedy has become a footnote in pop culture history for many reasons.  First up, it was the directrorial debut for Chris Columbus.  He got his break in Hollywood as a writer for Steven Spielberg, where he wrote such 1980s classics as Gremlins, The Goonies, and Young Sherlock Holmes.  From here, Columbus went on direct the first two Home Alone films, the Robin Williams classic Mrs. Doubtfire, and perhaps his two best-known films, the first two Harry Potters.  I remember first renting it on VHS back in the day, and how the description on the back of the box made a big deal about how this was the first starring role for Elisabeth Shue.  After being the girlfriend in The Karate Kid and Back to the Future, she starred on this, went on to win an Oscar in Leaving Las Vegas, and now she stars on CSI.  And also, I just found out, this was Disney's first PG-13 rated movie.

Leonard Maltin's movie guide refers to it as "a charming Ferris Bueler clone."  Charming enough that Disney has been talking about doing a remake for the past few years...fashioning it into a vehicle for one of their tween superstars.  They'll probably have to tone down some of the humour, though.

So the film opens with our heroine Chris.  Her sleazy boyfriend has stood her up on their big anniversary date.  Now, with nothing better to do, she decides to take a babysitting gig.  The kids she's babysitting are Sara, who is obsessed with the Marvel hero Thor, wearing Thor's trademark helmet for the whole film, Brad, Sara's brother who just started high school and has a mad crush on Chris, and Brad's best friend Daryl, who fills the teen comedy stock role of perpetually horny troublemaker.  He's the first to point out that Chris is virtually identical to this month's Playboy centerfold, which becomes a running gag in the film...and one of those jokes I was talking about that they'd have to eliminate for the remake. 

While settling in for the night, Chris gets a call from her best friend Brenda.  Brenda had a big fight with her parents and decided to run away from home.  Now stranded at the bus station downtown, Brenda has come to her senses and begs Chris to come get her, lest she get into more trouble with her parents.  Not knowing what else to do, Chris bundles up the kids, they pile into her mom's station wagon, and their night of wacky misadventures begins.

On the way into the city, they have a flat tire, and they're rescued by a kindly tow truck driver with a hook for a hand.  On the way to the repair shop, the tow truck driver gets a call on the CB radio that his wife is messing around on him, so Chris and the kids are dragged to the tow truck driver's house where they get in the middle of a domestic dispute.  Chris and the kids take refuge in a car...that's in the middle of being stolen.  Joe, the car thief, has a heart of gold, and vows to help them out once he's delivered the car to a chop shop.

Things go from bad to worse because the mobsters running the chop shop aren't too impressed with Joe showing up with all these kids.  The kids escape and find refuge in a blues club, which leads to the film's most famous scene..."If you wanna get out of here, you've got to sing the blues."  Chris manages to win over the crowd with an impromptu blues song about her night so far, the klds escape, and the mobsters are stuck in the club as they have to sing the blues to get out. 

Things calm down for a bit where Brad tries to convince Chris that her boyfriend is a slimeball for blowing her off and that she should be with someone better...like him.  Chris does her best to let him down gently.  She's 17 and he's 15, and in high school circles, that's a huge age difference, after all.  Besides, Chris seems to suffer from the small town mentality, where settling down with a sleazy boyfriend shortly after high school is pretty much the only future for a woman.  While this all going on, Daryl is negotiating prices with a hooker.  That's more of the stuff that would have to be removed to make this more tween-friendly.

Chris and the kids get on the train to continue their journey, when they get stuck in the middle of a gang war on the train.  Brad tries to be all heroic and protect Chris from the gangs, and gets a stab wound in his foot for his troubles.  Luckily, they get off the train at the hospital to get Brad examined.  Brad is embarrased, because the wound is so minor that all it requires is a single stitch.  However, the doctor mixes up with another patient that had a stab wound, and mistakenly tells Chris and the others that Brad died.  Needless to say, when Brad does meet up with them, they are greatly relieved. 

Meanwhile, in the hospital, they meet up with the friendly tow truck driver, still slugging it out with the guy that was doing his wife.  They're both getting patched up after their tussle.  The tow truck driver reveals that the Chris's car has been all fixed up, but the mechanic wants $50.  Wondering where they're going to get the money, Daryl decides to crash a college frat party.  In there, Chris meets a really nice, really hot college guy, and it's love at first sight between the two.  This is when Chris starts to think that,  yeah, maybe getting out of her sleepy suburb and going to college after graduation might be a good thing.  College guy decides to help them out, takes a collection among the partiers, but can only raise $45.  College guy gives them a ride to the mechanic's. 

The mechanic bears more than a strong resemblance to Thor, and little Sara immediately identifies him as such.  At first, the mechanic is very gruff, and refuses to give them the car, even though they're just $5 short.  But this little girl who constantly refers to him as her hero eventually melts the mechanic's heart, and he knocks the $5 off the price.  It seems like everything is good. 

So they're back on their drive to the bus station to save Brenda, but on their way, they pass by a fancy French restaurant, and they spot Chris's sleazy boyfriend's car in the parking lot.  Pissed off, Chris goes barging inside to confront her boyfriend, who's wining and dining another woman.  Sleazy boyfriend reveals that there was never anything serious between them, and that he's starting to move on because Chris won't put out.  Again, probably something that need to be toned down for Disney tween superstar vehicle.  Once again, Brad leaps into the fray, defending Chris's honor and telling off sleazy boyfriend for not recognizing what great woman Chris is.  Brad decides he's too good to take things to the next level and deck sleazy boyfriend, but Daryl decides he isn't and kicks sleazy boyfriend's ass. 

While this is going on, Sara took off to check out the toy store across the street, and there she runs into the mobsters.  See, the mobsters have been hunting down the kids this whole time because Daryl swiped a copy of the Playboy magazine with the centerfold that looks like Chris from the mobsters, and jotted down in that particular copy are some vital notes that crooks need.  Sara spies the office building where her parents work, and runs there for safety. 

After the stuff in the restaurant finishes, Chris, Brad and Daryl figure out what's going on and also head to the office building.  Did I mention that's where the kids' parents are having their party and why they needed a babysitter in the first place?  So Chris dons a disguise and infiltrates the party to look for Sara.  Sara, however, in trying to evade the mobsters, is now outside the building and standing on the window ledge.  So they rescue Sara, and as they're making their escape, they run into Joe, the kindly car thief.  Joe explains what's going on, and he gets the Playboy back from them.  But not before delivering a knockout blow to the lead mobster and giving up his life of crime. 

With everything tied up, they finally make it to the bus station to pick up Brenda, and they return just before the parents get home.  Chris and Brad affirm that they'll be friends, Sara begs Chris to come babysit next time, but Chris figures she's done with babysitting.  As she heads out to her car to drive home, the cute college guy shows up and asks out Chris. 

It always fun watching teen comedies from the 1980s for the sheer volume of "before they were famous" appearances.  Sleazy boyfriends is played by Bradley Whitford, who went on to play Josh on The West Wing.  From what I gather online, he is significantly older than Elisabeth Shue, and thus felt appropriately sleazy filming all his scenes with her.  The gruff mechanic is legendary actor Vincent D'Onofrio,  And the college guy is George Newburn, who went on to voice Superman in Justice League

This film was a lot darker than I remember, and no where near the fun romp that I remember it being.  That being said though, it was still a pretty good movie, funny when it needed to be, and serious when it had to.  All in all, not too bad.

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