Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead (1991) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Single mother goes away for the summer. The kids are first delighted but then find that Mom has hired the sitter from hell to stay with them. When the sitter dies of a sudden coronary they deposit the body at a mortuary only to discover all their summer expense money was in her purse. The kids must find a way to survive the summer without mom or her money. This means actual work!

  • When Mrs. Crandell goes on a summer vacation to Australia, she leaves her 5 kids Sue Ellen, Kenny, Zach, Melissa, and Walter in the care of an elderly but cruel babysitter, Mrs. Sturak. When Mrs. Sturak dies, the kids load her body in a trunk and deposit the trunk on the front step of the local funeral home. The kids are ecstatic because they think that with the big wad of cash their mom has left behind, they can have a summer of consumer madness. But when they discover that the money has been buried with Mrs. Sturak, the kids have to fend for themselves to make ends meet. 17-year-old Sue Ellen tries working at a fast food restaurant, but she can't stand the grease, so she puts together a false resume and, posing as a woman in her 20s, she applies for a job as a receptionist at a garment manufacturing company. The company's vice president, Rose Lindsey, is so impressed by her resume that she hires her on the spot as her executive assistant. Her deception looks to be working out great -- Sue Ellen manages to hold off the office lady killer Gus, avoids exposure by the embittered receptionist, borrows money from the company's petty cash box for household incidentals, and continues a relationship with restaurant employee Bryan. But suddenly, the garment firm is set to go under, and Sue Ellen must use her teen fashion sense to save the company and her job, and she has to get her siblings involved.

  • A single mom takes a vacation to Australia leaving Sue Ellen, Kenny and the rest of the kids behind. But what they didn't expect was a elderly, vicious babysitter that mom left to take care of them who's ready to make their lives miserable! But suddenly she passes away on the first night! Now the kids figure they can have the summer of their dreams, only they don't have any money for the basics like movies, dates, and pizza. Sue Ellen must find a job, but to make it in the adult world she has fake it from the top of her resume to the trip of her nail polish. If she succeeds, Sue Ellen and the kids are going to have a great summer they'll never forget...so long as they don't tell their mom the baby sitter's dead.

  • The misadventures of five siblings, whose mother goes off on a two month vacation, leaving them under the care of a geriatric babysitter. The babysitter dies, and the fun begins. The oldest sibling, Sue Ellen, is left to fend for her younger siblings, who fight her every step of the way.

  • Five siblings are left alone all summer when their mom leaves town and the evil babysitter bites the dust.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Sue Ellen Crandell (Christina Applegate) is a 17-year-old high school graduate and dream teen who looks forward to the summer when her divorced mother will be in Australia all summer. In the opening scene, Sue Ellen tells her friends at the clothing shop about her thoughts of a fun-filled summer of freedom in the rural Los Angeles suburbs while the rest of her friends are planning a trip to Europe, with Sue Ellen staying behind, unable to afford going abroad. After arriving home, Sue Ellen's dreams are then abruptly curtailed upon the arrival of elderly Mrs. Sturak (Eda Reiss Merin), whom Mrs. Crandell (Concetta Tomei) has hired as a live-in babysitter for Sue Ellen and her younger siblings: 16-year-old Kenny (Keith Coogan), a heavy metal-loving stoner; 13-year-old Zach (Christopher Pettiet), a romantic ladies' man; 11-year-old Melissa (Danielle Harris), an athletic tomboy; and eight-year-old game show addict Walter (Robert Hy Gorman).

    Mrs. Sturak reveals her true colors the moment Mrs. Crandell departs: an iron-fist-ed, whistle-blowing, no-nonsense disciplinarian. Kenny flees from the house to hang out with his fellow outgoing stoner friends all day, leaving behind Sue Ellen and the rest of his siblings. That evening, Sue Ellen inspires her siblings to rise up against Mrs. Sturak and end her reign of terror. The moment they move in to confront her, however, they discover Mrs. Sturak dead in her chair in her room... dead of a heart attack while in her sleep. The five Crandell children panic and debate calling the police, or their mother in Australia, but Sue Ellen realizes that doing so jeopardizes any chance for summer fun for their mother will no doubt return and unfairly blame them for Mrs. Sturak's death. They finally decide to seal Mrs. Sturak's body in a trunk, and drop it off anonymously at the local morgue with a note reading: "Nice old lady inside. Died of natural causes."

    The next morning, more panic ensues when, while taking Mrs. Sturak's car for a food shopping trip, the kids realize that all the cash their mother left them for the summer was in an envelope that Mrs. Sturak kept on her at all times. After returning to the house, Sue Ellen and the rest of the Crandells tear apart Mrs. Sturak's room as well as look into her purse and suitcase that she left behind, but the money is gone... having been taken by the old woman.

    The Crandell kids now have no money for the next two months of the summer, but Sue Ellen decides all she needs is a job. Unfortunately, the only place that hires her is Clown Dog, a fast-food restaurant, where she performs grunt labor in miserable conditions. Despite meeting Bryan (Josh Charles), a handsome and supportive co-worker who becomes her boyfriend, Sue Ellen quickly gets fed up with the obnoxious Clown Dog manager and quits.

    Sue Ellen then forges the resume of a mid-level fashion executive and poses as a 28-year-old as she applies at General Apparel West, a downtown L.A. clothing manufacturer, for an open receptionist position. Although scorned by Carolyn (Jayne Brook), the rude and sarcastic receptionist due for a promotion, Sue Ellen's resume garners the attention of Rose Lindsey (Joanna Cassidy), the senior vice president of operations at GAW, who offers an executive administrative assistant position to her.

    While out at a Chuck E Cheese restaurant that evening to celebrate Sue Ellen's new job, she, Kenny, Zach, Melissa and Walter find themselves stranded in a parking lot of the shopping center when Mrs. Sturak's car is stolen by a trio of drag queens. Sue Ellen is forced to call Bryan to give her and her brothers and sister a ride back to their home. Afterwords, Bryan invites Sue Ellen out on a date and she accepts.

    Overt the next several weeks, Sue Ellen drives to work in her mother's Volvo car, and struggles to keep the truth about her double life hidden from Bryan and GAW. But things become more complicated after Sue Ellen learns that Bryan is the younger brother of Carolyn, the receptionist who quickly sees through Sue Ellen's charade. Carolyn soon teams up with her equally cynical and sneaky boyfriend Bruce (David Douchney) to try to prove that sue Sue Ellen is a phony to the skeptic Rose.

    Also complicating things is Rose's businessman boyfriend Gus, who makes inappropriate and sexual advances at Sue Ellen, who brushes it off, but Gus refuses to take no for an answer, and Sue Ellen is afraid to say anything about the lecherous Gus' advances out of fear her secret will be discovered.

    After learning about office money called petty cash, Sue Ellen "borrows" enough for groceries. She convinces herself that she will be able to pay back the money she stole, but on her first payday, she sees that her paycheck is only $730, for nearly half of her pay is taken away for taxes and her siblings used even more petty cash, totaling over $3,000, to purchase nonreturnable items such as Zach purchasing a huge stereo TV and sound set.

    Another few days later, Sue Ellen's distress is further compounded with bad news from Rose: the company is going under because GAW's dowdy fashions aren't selling amid their buyers, and soon all of them will be out of a job. In a moment of epiphany, Sue Ellen goes out on a limb for GAW by designing high-end fashions on her own for GAW. She convinces Rose and the other senior staff members that her hip clothes could pull GAW back out of bankruptcy. Rose is impressed and wants to hold a gala event-type show to reveal GAW's new fashion line to their buyers. Realizing there isn't enough petty cash to rent a hall, Sue Ellen convinces Rose to hold the fashion show at the Crandell house in the Valley.

    Working together with her siblings and friends, they use the remaining petty cash to spruce up the house and host the event themselves. The evening goes off swimmingly, with the audience loving the new GAW clothing line. Right at the show's finale, however, Bryan shows up unexpectedly, quickly followed by a furious Mrs. Crandell, back early from Australia (having not heard from the kids over their refusal to take her phone calls).

    Overwhelmed by her lies, Sue Ellen announces the truth to everyone and apologizes to Rose, but Rose assures her that the buyers loved the new fashions and don't care about Sue Ellen's personal life. With GAW's future secured, Rose gladly offers the "real" Sue Ellen another position at GAW, but Sue Ellen declines in favor of pursuing college first.

    With the party ended and the guests departing, Mrs. Crandell begins to lose her temper as always, but is quickly calmed down by a now more-mature Sue Ellen, as well as the suttle Kenny, Zack, Melissa and Walter. Mom walks around the house, impressed and suspicious by the cleanliness, expensive new furnishings, and the behavioral turn-around of all her children. As Sue Ellen and Bryan embrace and kiss, Mrs. Crandell asks about the whereabouts of Mrs. Sturak.

    The end credits then begin to roll as the film cuts to a scene at the local cemetery, where the two morgue attendants are visiting Mrs. Sturak's grave and place a bouquet of flowers on it. Here, we finally learn what happened to the missing money that Mrs. Crandell left Sue Ellen and her siblings. As expected, the cash was taken by Mrs. Sturak and she kept it hidden in her clothing to keep it away from the Crandell children. It was discovered by the two morgue workers while they were preparing her for burial and they ended up squandering all of it over the course of this movie by making weekend gambling trips to Las Vegas. The final shot shows Mrs. Sturak's tombstone which simply reads: "Nice Old Lady. Died Of Natural Causes."

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