Adventures in Babysitting (1987)

[6.0]

Elisabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas, The Karate Kid) stars as a high school senior who resigns herself to babysitting when her date cancels at the last minute. But when her friend runs away from home and makes a panicked call from the bus terminal in downtown Chicago, Shue decides she has to rescue her — even if it means dragging a 9 year-old girl and two young teen boys with her. After her car blows a tire, the night turns into a serendipitous nightmare as Shue and the kids avoid a dangerous car theft ring, fix their own car, and get back home before the kids’ parents do.

Shue has a terrific opening scene in which she dances to The Crystals’ “Then He Kissed Me,” but the film starts to fall flat almost immediately after the credits end. I think Shue’s part is underdeveloped and she feels trapped by the material — it’s not the charming or exuberant performance it should be. Fortunately, the kids have a little more charisma to carry the movie — especially Keith Coogan, who plays a fifteen-year-old with a crush on Shue’s eighteen-year-old character. Vincent D’Onofrio, Penelope Ann Miller, and Bradley Whitford are all welcome in supporting roles.

Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs Doubtfire) made his directorial debut with Adventures in Babysitting after a highly successful screenwriting spree with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, where he wrote Gremlins, The Goonies, and Young Sherlock Holmes. He didn’t write Adventures in Babysitting, but it’s got his half-goofy, half-charming vibe, watered down as it may be. Highlights include Shue and the kids having to sing the blues for a club audience, and escaping a tow-truck man who starts shooting at his wife and her lover.

The comedy is geared toward younger audiences and some of it hasn’t aged well (gay slurs and racial stereotypes abound). But I suppose I have a soft spot for ‘all in a night’ youthful adventure movies. With Maia Brewton and Anthony Rapp.

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