'80s Movie Month! "Adventures in Babysitting" Review

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Chris Parker agrees to babysit after being stood up for a date. Expecting a dull evening, Chris settles down with three kids for a night of TV, but instead ends up having a night none of them will ever forget.
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'80s Movie Month! "Adventures in Babysitting" Review

Rating: PG-13
Length: 102 minutes
Release Date: July 1, 1987
Director: Chris Columbus
Genre: Action/Adventure/Comedy

"Adventures in Babysitting" is a teen adventure comedy, a style that was all the rage in the mid-'80s through early '90s. The film starred several younger actors who would go on to work regularly in Hollywood, as well as several established character actors.

Chris, played by Elisabeth Shue ("Leaving Las Vegas," "Back to the Future"—II and III), was supposed to have a big date with her boyfriend Mike (Bradley Whitford), but at the last minute, he cancels. Having nothing better to do, she agrees to babysit Sara Anderson. As Chris settles in for a long, boring night, her best friend Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller) calls and needs to be rescued from a bus station in downtown Chicago. Determined to help her friend, Chris piles Sara, her older brother Brad, and Brad's nosy friend Daryl into the Anderson's station wagon, and they head to Chicago.

On the way to pick up Brenda, the group endures a series of adventures, starting with a flat tire. The adventure goes on to include witnessing a gang fight and accidentally stealing incriminating evidence from criminals operating a chop shop. There is also a memorable scene in a blues club where no one can leave the stage without singing the blues and a rather frightening rescue of young Sara off a ledge in the same location where her parents are attending a party.

Of course the adventure is successful, and there's a happy-ever-after ending but not before a frantic trip home to get everyone tucked in before Brad and Sara's parents arrive home, blissfully unaware of the adventure their children experienced earlier in the evening. As it happens in most teen adventure films, everything works out, no one gets hurt, and the whole thing becomes a distant memory as the credits start to roll.

Directed by Chris Columbus ("Mrs. Doubtfire," "Home Alone"), the film is an effective blend of comedy, adventure, and action scenes. The film might seem dated and slightly cheesy now, but for those who grew up in the '80s and are seeking an opportunity to go back in time and relive their youth, "Adventures in Babysitting" will do the trick.

The movie relies heavily on the '80s formula for major motion pictures: have a main character who is moody or sullen because of some seemingly tragic event, throw in some sort of emergency, and let the adventure begin. In the midst of the adventure, the main character will meet a potential new love interest, discover the truth about the tragic event, exact revenge, complete the initial quest, and unite with the love interest in the end. The movie's setting is typical for the genre for that time—the suburbs of Chicago. "Pretty in Pink," "The Breakfast Club," and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" all have Chicago settings.

The movie also uses what appears to be an innocuous backstory to foreshadow events to come later. For example, Sara's love for the Marvel Comics hero Thor, Chris's boyfriend's excuse for why he can't go on their date, and Brad's feelings for Chris all become major plot points later in the movie.

The acting in the movie is over the top but not annoyingly so. Shue is effective as the put-upon babysitter turned hero, and Miller is pleasantly annoying as the needy best friend. The three kids in the film—Sara, Brad, and Daryl—are rambunctious and the typical children-who-know-more-than-they-should types you find in movies. Ron Canada ("The West Wing," "National Treasure") is completely believable as the criminal Grayson, and Vincent D'Onofrio plays a decent superhero look-alike. Bradley Whitford is also believable as the jerk boyfriend, a type of role he became well known for playing before he became a good guy on the television show "The West Wing."

Interestingly enough, the most visible actor from the main cast at that time would be Brad, portrayed by Keith Coogan. The grandson of actor Jackie Coogan, he appeared in several commercials for McDonald's as well as in television shows such as "Eight Is Enough," "The Waltons," "Fantasy Island," "Laverne & Shirley," and "Knight Rider," just to name a few, before playing Brad.

"Adventures in Babysitting" is a prime example of a fun movie from the '80s. The story is a bit over the top, but overall, it makes for an enjoyable movie-watching experience. From a nostalgia standpoint, the cars, clothing, and hairstyles make the movie worth watching. The plot is just icing on the cake.

Rating: 3 out of 5