A night on the town can be thrilling or fun,
When you know what you’re doing and not on the run,
But if you’re unprepared for the city at night,
I’d highly advise that you do as I write.
Don’t chitchat with strangers or pull someone’s leg,
Unless you need money, in which case just beg.
Do not leave your car, unless you have no choice;
Don’t take a stage unless you have a good voice.
Don’t steal magazines or pet cats you can’t see
And try to avoid any known felony.
And whatever you do in your probable mess,
Don’t bring kids along, unless you like stress.
MPAA rating for 1987 version: PG-13
Rating for 2016 version: G
Adventures in Babysitting is one of those movies that could have well been on my original list, but it took a more recent viewing to remind me of this fun ’80s classic and convince me to add it to my list, which I updated all the way back at the beginning of the year. I do want to review all the films I added last year, and the recent Disney Channel remake gave me the perfect opportunity to revisit this one as a Version Variation.
Released by Disney’s Touchstone label, the original Adventures in Babysitting from 1987 was the first lead role for Elizabeth Shue, who plays Chris the babysitter, and I dare say it wasn’t just Keith Coogan’s Brad who had a crush on her. Singing along to “Then He Kissed Me” in the opening credits, she’s the ideal girl next door, soon thrust into extraordinary circumstances when her friend Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller) begs for rescue from an ill-conceived attempt at running away. Forced to bring Brad, his sister Sara (Maia Brewton), and his friend Daryl (Anthony Rapp) along for the ride, Chris holds herself and her under-age entourage together surprisingly well as they ramble from one Chicago danger to the next.
A coworker of mine told me she doesn’t see what makes Adventures in Babysitting a classic, but while it isn’t on the level of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, it’s a film in which individual moments outshine the whole. There’s the scary hook story and its unexpected punchline, the gang confrontation on the L train, the tense climax high on a skyscraper, and the disarming payoff for Sara’s obsession with Thor, long before anyone thought Marvel would give him his own movie. (It’s still hard to believe that hunky mechanic was Vincent D’Onofrio, you know, the scuzzy bad guy in both Men in Black and Jurassic World. No wonder he’s known as a chameleon.) And of course, the film’s high point is its impromptu musical number where Chris and the kids sing their own babysitting blues on stage. Even if you don’t see the film as a classic, that scene certainly is. Through all their risky ordeals, the easily likable main characters ensure Adventures in Babysitting is likewise easy to enjoy.
As for the remake…. Perhaps to capitalize on the boom in ’80s nostalgia and to give its 100th Disney Channel Original Movie some name recognition, Disney decided to give Adventures in Babysitting a kiddie makeover this year, and the results were mixed to say the least. The film features Disney Channel stars such as Sabrina Carpenter from Girl Meets World, Sofia Carson from Descendants, and Kevin Quinn from Bunk’d, and like their shows, it’s a juvenile mix of humor and heart that will appeal far more to tweens than to anyone much older. I used to watch and enjoy Disney Channel Original Movies while growing up (I still love the High School Musical series), but having drifted away from DCOMs and now watching this one, my older self can’t help but wonder if the quality has gone down or my perceptions have simply matured. Maybe both.
Either way, this new Adventures in Babysitting comes up way short of the original even as it seemingly tries to outdo it. Instead of one babysitter, we get two, one a deeply responsible good girl (Carpenter) and the other an unreliable sitter-impersonator (Carson). Instead of three kids, we get five from two different families, ranging from an aspiring chef to a would-be fashionista. Instead of a car-stealing ring with genuine danger implied, we get a couple of bumbling smugglers doing something illegal with a spray-painted ferret.
Yet for all its changes, it’s still recognizably the same general story, hitting the same beats and notable scenes, yet mirroring my main complaint about Maleficent, every scene from the original that they try to recreate is consistently worse. Most atrocious of all is the “musical number,” which has morphed from a blues anthem to a rap battle with dreadful lyrics like “we ain’t no quitters; we’re the babysitters.” It’s enough to make me gag.
Yet even with all the ways the newer version of Adventures in Babysitting falls short of the original, it’s hard to totally disparage. It’s likely far more engaging to its target age group than to me and, for them, probably captures some of the same fun that ’80s kids felt in 1987. For the most part, it’s decent; perhaps someone someday might consider it a classic, but I doubt it. The most the remake has going for it is its kid-friendliness (i.e., “Don’t mess with the babysitter!” as opposed to the original version), since the original was more intended for teens and up with its occasional language and talk of Playboy. If it has to exist, I suppose the latest version of Adventures in Babysitting can act as an introduction to younger audiences before they see the far better original. Now enough already with the lackluster remakes!
Best line (from the original): (Brad) “Where we gonna get 50 bucks?” (Sarah) “We could sell Daryl. You think?”
Rank for 1987 version: List-Worthy
Rank for 2016 version: Dishonorable Mention
© 2016 S. G. Liput
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