It’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since “Adventures in Babysitting” played in theaters—that is, until you look at the fashions. It’s pure ‘80s, in all its poofy-haired, shoulder-padded glory.
Still, the 1987 comedy plays surprisingly well—better, in fact, than the recent reboot starring Jonah Hill as “The Sitter.” The situation is more believable, the narrative tension is better sustained, and there are more memorable moments—chief among them the song “Babysitting Blues” that star Elisabeth Shue performs onstage at a club with real-life bluesman Albert Collins. “Nobody gets out of here without singing the blues,” he says, and he means it. Gangsters included.
While “The Sitter” felt episodic, “Adventures in Babysitting” comes closer to “The Out-of-Towners” or “Date Night” in that there’s a more pronounced domino effect. It begins when 17-year-old Chris (Shue) gets stood up by her boyfriend (Bradley Whitford) on the eve of their anniversary. So what the heck. She might as well babysit for the Andersons . . . though one of the “kids” is a 15-year-old boy named Brad (Keith Coogan) who has the hots for Chris. Even his eight-year-old sister Sara (Maia Brewton), who’s obsessed with the superhero Thor, notices.
The second plot kickstart comes when Chris gets a phone call from her best friend Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller), who picked the worst possible time (late night) and situation (no money) to run away from home. “Come and get me, please!” she pleads from a phone booth, as a homeless man yells at her to “Get out of my house!”
Once Chris packs the kids and Brad’s blackmailing, sex-obsessed friend Daryl (Anthony Rapp) into the Anderson family car, you know it’s going to be downhill from there. But the turns that this film takes are far more surprising than you get in the reboot. They run into a tow truck driver (John Ford Noonan), a carjacker (Calvin Levels), and a chop shop operation that’s bigger than all of them. And of course since the film is aimed at teens, they end up at both a blues club and a fraternity party—all in a night’s work.
Shue has the fresh-faced charm to carry the film, but she doesn’t have to. The rest of the ensemble pulls their own weight, and Chris Columbus (“Home Alone,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”) doesn’t flinch in his feature-length directorial debut. He manages perfect time in just about every scene, with the actors coached to deliver as much information through body language and facial expressions as they do through their lines.
“Adventures in Babysitting” is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio and comes to 50GB Blu-ray disc via an AVC/MPEG-4 encode. It’s a nice upgrade over the DVD, with considerably less grain and more detail. Colors pop in some scenes, and skin tones look natural—though it’s hard to tell sometimes under all that hair. Many of the scenes are shot in low light or dark exteriors, and there’s still a nice amount of detail present.
The featured audio is an English DTS-HD MA 5.1, and it’s as rollicking soundtrack that features a lively (though not thumping) bass and bright treble notes. The mix is perfect, with the sound effects never overtaxing the dialogue but still making their presence felt. And there’s a surprising amount of rear speaker activity. Additional audio options are in Spanish and French Dolby Digital 2.0, with subtitles in English SDH, Spanish and French.
Sorry, there are none. But wouldn’t it have been nice to have heard from Columbus about his very first film? Someone dropped the ball here, or else they shouldn’t be marketing this as a 25th Anniversary Edition.
Like “Home Alone,” “Adventures in Babysitting” is a lightweight comic adventure, but it’s effective in what it sets out to do . . . and that’s entertain.