Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead

It’s a perverse fact of life that home video gets the late-summer blues right around February. This year there’s a long stretch of VCR ennui between the big holiday videos (Terminator 2) and the spring barrage of more serious films that were in theaters last fall (The Doctor). But the lack of new ”A” titles doesn’t mean there won’t be a whole lot of renting going on. In fact, a movie that got lost in the summer shuffle is primed to take advantage of the video downtime. Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead courts teenage viewers with a vengeance. Ironically, this movie turn out to be well suited to this inverse dog days: It’s dogs.

There’s a dog in Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, a gang of heavy-metal teens get it stoned in one har-dee-har scene. Just as Bingo is content to be stupid on the assumption that kids don’t know any better, Babysitter panders to the mall generation with a lot of sure-I’m-jaded-but-only-because-nobody-understands-me posturing.

Here’s the setup: A selfish L.A. mom leaves her five children in the care of a wizened biddy who promptly dies in her sleep. The oldest kid, Sue Ellen (Christina Applegate), fakes up a résumé and gets a job — wow, just like that! — as an executive assistant to a fashion-company VP with truly ugly hair, played by Joanna Cassidy (Who Framed Roger Rabbit). After many farcical close calls, Sue Ellen gets a guy, teaches her bratty siblings responsibility, and — neat! — saves the company’s neck with a poolside fashion show of her own.

What’s weird is how darkly this is all presented. Despite that cowabunga title and the presence of Applegate (Married With Children‘s resident jailbait and a better actress than you might expect), Babysitter isn’t much of a party. As Sue Ellen deals with sleazy coworkers and menial housekeeping, the message is clear: Adulthood makes you mean. Or, as she puts it, ”It’s the rat race, and it sucks.” If the filmmakers had pushed that pouty self-pity a little further, Babysitter might have been interestingly acrid. But not much thought has gone into this project beyond a title and a ”surefire” concept. The lesson of this dog-day woofer may be that this is the time to investigate shelves in the video store other than the new-titles rack. D+

Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead
  • Movie
  • 102 minutes