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Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead (1991)
This is one of the best and the last 80's style comedies along the lines of "Uncle Buck". Sue Ellen (Christina Applegate) is the oldest of 3 brothers- Kenny (Keith Coogan), Walter (Robert Gorman), Zach (Christopher Pettiet) , and 1 sister- Melissa (Danielle Harris). Excited about her mom leaving for Australia on vacation, Sue Ellen is expecting to have a great summer- that is until she discovers she is going to be "babysat" by the evil Mrs. Sturak- a mean, grumpy old hag who gives you book reports instead of letting you watch television in the evening. Then, Mrs. Sturak dies- leaving Sue Ellen and her four siblings to survive the summer, prompting her to get a job to support her brothers and sister, put food on the table, and learn the true meaning of responsibility. This movie has some laughs and is pretty fun and entertaining. A good family comedy. 8/10.
OK the premise is dumb--A mom is going on vacation to Australia for two
months. She has five children and leaves them with a tyrannical
babysitter. The babysitter dies (of natural causes) within the first 15
minutes and the kids basically have to live alone all summer...but need
money for food. The oldest one is 17 year old Sue Ellen (Christina
Applegate)and she easily gets an executive position (just like real
life, right?) at a fashion agency and, naturally, is incredible at her
job. And her brothers and sisters learn values from her example...
Sounds horrible, but it's well-acted (especially Applegate and a drop dead gorgeous Joanna Cassidy), it moves quickly, is very funny, has a great soundtrack of new AND old songs and I enjoyed every minute of it! Not a great movie by any means, but if you can turn off your brain for 2 hours, you'll really enjoy it!
You know... I've seen this a couple of times and I'd see it again. It
made me laugh. It was charming. It was a harmless flick; no psyches
were harmed in the making thereof. Granted, no real thought needs to be
put into watching it. But it was fun, and I enjoyed it.
Christina Applegate especially impressed me, which is noteworthy as -- at the time -- I really disliked her as a result of really disliking "Married With Children." She was not only good in her role but, I have to say, pretty much won me over.
I can't say that the film made me wish I had siblings or a dead babysitter, but it did entertain me, and it made me smile to remember it watching this review, which has got to be worth something.
What is a great film? Something that is truly timeless, or something
which is a classic of its genre? Obviously, no-one's pretending "Don't
Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead" is a great film (no great film has a
title of more than three words. Think about it) but nonetheless, one
does get to see how a film handles its composition of several genres
rather than one. It's the best strategy towards greatness, and I hope
to see this attempted more frequently.
"Don't Tell Mom..." is at an interesting cultural crossroads. It's basically the last of the Eighties high-concept comedies: the same broad category as films like Big and Crocodile Dundee, where the whole film comes from the pitch. However, we get to see shades of Wayne's World-esquire Generation X teen movie, especially in the character of Rob, and unfortunately the short-lived genre of 'kids acting in grown-up situations and delivering ever-so-amusing grownup lines.' John Hughes was the master of this style of film-making, and there's definitely shades of his work in here, most noticeably the setting of a film largely within a family house.
First of all - the pitch. Kids left at home for summer with babysitter. Babysitter dies and kids must fend for themselves with as few people let in on the secret as possible. From this moment on, the film was always going to go about the format of throwing its naive, brattish teenagers in the real world at the deep end and extracting as much amusement as possible from their sinking-or-swimming.
The screenplay starts to thin at this point. Of the five kids in the house, only two are feasibly old enough to work, or indeed to learn any sort of life lesson throughout this experience. The plot then follows Sue Ellen as she stumbles her way into a job and up the corporate ladder (the script is devoid of jokes at this point, but I kept watching because Christina Applegate is a surprisingly good actress.) Everything from this point is a misjudgment - it's virtually scrawled across the screen that Sue Ellen is getting some life lessons and becoming a young adult. The film could have done without the 'boyfriend' storyline though - it's without doubt the saggiest part of the film.
More interesting is the Kenny storyline. Younger brother Kenny goes from being a hopeless layabout stoner with no inkling to as what he wants to do in life to a man with a plan. Lack of screen time prohibits us from truly understanding why, but we do get an insight into the film's message - the real world is about sacrifice. Kenny must throw away his carefree existence if he wants to become a man.
Sure, this film has faults like pearls on a string - the annoying smaller children who eat up screen time and contribute nothing but an unbearable cuteness (and they're not even that cute: they steal money from their mom's purse - twice.) Sue Ellen's corporate life is shown as patronizingly simple, but that's a fault of all movies in general, you can't have clever successful people as the heroes because the audience feels intimidated. The other major fault I'm going to point out is the chronic lack of laughs. About the biggest giggle was David Duchovny's horrendous yellow shirt. But "Don't Tell Mom," much like its characters, has an innocent, naive charm about it, and if you can put aside your critical mauling instinct, it won't be the worst two hours of your celluloid life.
Keep your eyes peeled for a throwaway reference to Big.
Just saw it again; the cast carries a silly plot, in much the same way
as a '40s screwball comedy but with an 80s/90s sensibility and
awareness. Applegate and Coogan are really outstanding here, and the
supporting cast is smart enough to either support or stay out of the
way, as necessary. It's pure humor with no big message, which
apparently was a virtue 60 years ago but is unforgivable now. I'd best
describe the humor as, "Hilarity ensues as fish out of water learn to
I'd give it a very solid 6.8 out of 10, worth a rental or a Netflix hit, but not a $20 purchase.
I remember watching this film when I was growing up, I loved it then
and I still love it.
Despite the fact it's obviously predictable, it's a fun film that's well acted and directed and has a great soundtrack.
Christina Applegate is quite impressive as Sue-Ellen, as is the rest of the cast.
Most of the characters are quite black and white with the obvious "baddies" getting their comeuppance towards the end of the film. Predictable films howeverm, aren't always bad. Especially if they are well acted and the characters are interesting. The only character that was meant to be nice that I found utterly annoying, was Josh Charles as Sue-Ellen's sugary sweet suitor, Bryan. His acting was great don't get me wrong, but I think it's safe to say Bryan wouldn't be MY type!
If anything else, this fun film is easy to watch and will remind most people in their mid 20's of their adolescents.
Being one of those people that isn't heavily into the whole cinema
"thing," I have my classic favorites and I stick to them. But this one
outshines them all. When asked 'what is your favorite movie?' at times
I am hesitant to disclose DTMTBD as my number one. First, it must be
clear that this is obviously not necessarily a "good" movie, in the
eyes of the Academy or critics, but it's not supposed to be. That's the
beauty of it, and that's why Christina Applegate is an actress!
There are so many quotes that I would like to add to my "comments," but as most of you have probably seen it, you don't likely need a commentary; so instead I'll just get back to the QED Report so Swell can have it to New York by this afternoon.
It's too bad she and young Brian are married now -- I used to watch the grunion run with him. We'll see.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I loved this movie, even now, 10 years later, I think it's
The movie starts with the main character, Sue Ellen crowing to her friends about how she's going to be on her own this summer, because her mother is going on a 2 month vacation, but to her surprise, the mother does not trust her 17 year old daughter to be in charge for 2 months, and hires a babysitter, who turns out to be an evil 80 year old nazi, and the kids immediately despise her.
Lucky for them, she dies fairly soon, and they pretty much drag her body to a funeral home, ring the doorbell and run. No, that's not incredibly plausible. But good lord, it's a kids comedy. There's going to be some stretches in there.
Anyway, so the kids are broke, and Sue Ellen decides to get a job. She gets a job at a fast food restaurant, but decides she needs a more mature job, so she makes up a fake resume, and applies for a receptionist job (which for a 17 year old, isn't such a stretch), however, before she can apply for it she bonds with one of the big wigs at the company, and this big wig makes her an assistant. Some people commenting here forgot that 1. She was NOT an executive, she was an assistant, and 2. She didn't do that great of a job, they never actually showed her working. She was hired and kept on because her boss adored her, not because she was some sort of secretarial prodigy.
This movie obviously could never happen, but hello, could Home Alone actually happen either? I can't believe people take these comedies and complain about how unrealistic it was. This movie's objective was to entertain, not make any sort of political statement.
Anyway, it was fun, it had a cute ending, and I thought Christina Applegate did a swell job acting in this one.
How could you NOT like this movie! I am watching it right now, and it has inspired me to write a review, and hopefully give it more recognition and more importantly, a higher rating!!!! Kids home alone with no parents, free to do whatever, but also trying to maintain living! Each character has their own stereotype- Walter the youngest: a handful, Melissa: the disobedient tomboy, Kenny: the headbanging rocker drop-out, Zachary: the calm, but sneaky love struck teen and Sue-Ellen: the responsible, yet hip mother of her siblings. This movie is full of much excitement and a great plot. You cannot go past this underrated classic!
I loved this movie, I found it very entertaining and would recommend
I'm often surprised at the points people get hung up on in reviewing movies. They are, after all, FICTION. The main "controversy" surrounding this plot seems to be Sue Ellen's job. I have done office work for over 25 years and yes, it is entirely possible that Sue Ellen could have landed that position without too much trouble. Maybe not inside of five minutes at the first firm she walked into, but using a faked resume, as she was, she could have obtained a pretty soft office job without too much trouble. Some firms I've worked for would verify your more recent work experience, but many others never verify anything on a resume, and I've never once in all my years known of anyone to verify the education one claimed to have. Indeed, I've often kicked myself that I could have claimed to have some precious, worthless high dollar degree and no one would have questioned it.
Beyond this, the movie is awfully good for this genre of film. We see the children unexpectedly learning valuable life lessons and it changing them into better people. It's really a rather wholesome movie considering the time period and target audience. I've let my nephews, nieces, and grandchildren watch in my home, there is nothing more objectionable than the very occasional swear word in it.
One of my favorite movies from an otherwise dry period in Hollywood, highly recommended.
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