Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (1991, Stephen Herek)

Wait, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead made money? It didn’t make a lot of money, but it probably turned a profit.

The movie’s a star vehicle for Christina Applegate, who clearly doesn’t deserve one. Her performance is laughably awful and amateurish; it’s as though the filmmakers realized she wasn’t likable and just went ahead anyway. Every frame of her performance gives way to a far worse one.

The plot–the titular Babysitter angle quickly gives way to teenage Applegate lying her way into a job–requires a reasonable performance from the lead. Between Applegate and director Herek’s incompetence, it’s not happening here.

There’s a complete disconnect with reality in Babysitter, whether it’s Concetta Tomei being believable as having five kids or Keith Coogan’s stoner being younger than sister Applegate. Herek and the screenwriters also coat over the mean-spirited, reprehensible natural of the characters. Whether it’s Tomei leaving her kids with a babysitter without references, the kids disposing of the body and covering up the death and just the movie’s general apathy.

The audience is supposed to like Applegate because she meets a cute boy (Josh Charles, who’s clearly leagues ahead talent-wise than his costars) and changes outfits and hairstyles every scene.

Poor Joanna Cassidy shows up and humiliates herself as Applegate’s boss.

Between Herek’s unbelievably lousy direction and David Newman’s awful score, the movie doesn’t even have any passable technical qualities.

It’s artistically tragic prints of Babysitter exist. I wish I could forget every millisecond of it.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Stephen Herek; written by Neil Landau and Tara Ison; director of photography, Tim Suhrstedt; edited by Larry Bock; music by David Newman; production designer, Stephen Marsh; produced by Robert F. Newmyer, Julia Phillips, Brian Reilly and Jeffrey Silver; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Christina Applegate (Sue Ellen Crandell), Joanna Cassidy (Rose Lindsey), John Getz (Gus), Josh Charles (Bryan), Keith Coogan (Kenny Crandell), Concetta Tomei (Mom), David Duchovny (Bruce), Kimmy Robertson (Cathy), Jayne Brook (Carolyn), Eda Reiss Merin (Mrs. Sturak), Robert Hy Gorman (Walter Crandell), Danielle Harris (Melissa Crandell) and Christopher Pettiet (Zach Crandell).


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