Adventures in Babysitting was one of my favourite movies as a pre-teen. I recorded it on VHS and watched it again and again. Even with all of the chaos and misfortune that befell the babysitter, I remember wishing that I was a few years older so that I could babysit. I was hooked from the opening moments where Elizabeth Shue lip-synchs to “Then He Kissed Me” while dressing for a big date with her boyfriend. It’s a wonderful beginning that’s upbeat, fun and original and it establishes Shue as the peppy, spunky babysitter named Chris.
When Chris bounds excitedly down the stairs, all dolled-up, to welcome her boyfriend, Mike, she’s dismayed to find that he’s dressed in jeans and is cancelling their date because his kid sister is sick. Crushed and suddenly free for the night, Chris accepts a last minute job babysitting for the Anderson’s. So instead of a dreamy date, what she gets is one wickedly, determinedly fun and crazy thrill ride.
The Andersons have two kids - 15-years-old Brad who crushes hard on Chris and his kid sister, Sara, who’s obsessed with Thor. Add to the mix Brad’s annoying, troublesome buddy Daryl and Chris has got her hands full. The story progresses with a series of unforeseen and unfortunate events. First, Chris’ friend Brenda calls to tell her that she ran away from home. The money she had only got her as far as the bus station and now she’s stranded with nowhere to go. Brenda’s freaked out because the bus station is freaky, and begs Chris to come and pick her up. Her hands tied, Chris sets off for the bus station to rescue Brenda with Brad, Sara and Daryl in tow.
While en route, Chris gets a flat tire and has no spare in back to fix it. A friendly truck driver - with a hook for a hand - stops and offers to tow the car and to replace the tire for free. But en route to the garage, he gets a call that his wife is cheating on him and heads home with Chris and the kids along for the ride. There’s a shootout and Chris, Brad, Sara and Daryl seek refuge in a car parked on the street that, coincidentally, is just about to be boosted by a car thief. They’re taken to the chop shop because the car thief is a criminal with a soft spot and knows that leaving Chris and the kids behind in that neighbourhood isn’t a good idea.
At the chop shop, the group is locked inside an office while the crew talks business. One-track-minded Daryl notices a Playboy magazine on the desk and decides to steal it. Strangely enough, the centerfold model looks exactly like Chris. The kids escape the office by crawling through a hatch in the ceiling and eking across the metal frame of the garage. They don’t go unnoticed, and neither does the stolen Playboy magazine which, as luck would have it, contains valuable notes that the car thieves need.
What comes next is my favourite scene in the film where, while trying to outrun the car thieves who are in pursuit of them (and the Playboy), Chris and the kids stumble into a Blues club and are told that “Nobody leaves this place without singing the Blues.” In another great musical number, Chris and the kids adlib a song about the crazy night they’ve had and the audience in the club eats it up!
After the club, every imaginable kind of scene is packed into the nightlong series of adventures. They stumble into a gang fight where Brad is stabbed in the toe; they discover Chris’s boyfriend Mike out with another girl; they attend a frat party where Chris meets a new guy; Sara mistakes a mechanic for Thor and they wind up at the office building where the Andersons are attending a party. Luckily, they leave undetected by their parents and unscathed by the car thieves who’ve been in pursuit all along and finally get their precious Playboy back. And at long last, they finally pick up Brenda.
For me, this film is a classic one that I enjoyed very much as a youngster. It pains me a little to hear that a remake is slated for release this year because nothing will ever top the original. The wacky action and the great cast of characters combine to make for a film that will always be endearing, amusing and one of my all-time 80s favourites.