Review: Adventures in Babysitting (1987)

High school senior Chris Parker (played by Elizabeth Shue) gets stood up on a date, so instead lands a babysitting gig watching a few kids for the night. Another uneventful night…until her friend calls, trapped at a bus station in Chicago without any money, and Chris has to drag the kids along into the big city to rescue her. Adventure and hijinks ensue.

Adventures in Babysitting (1987) is a movie that holds a lot of nostalgia for me. This is a movie I grew up watching as a kid, one that is close to my heart, and I doubt I will ever grow tired of it. It never takes itself too seriously, is affably goofy and doesn’t really seem to age. However, there is a somewhat strange element thrown into the mix: the world it inhabits, or creates, if you will, does not attempt to reflect strict reality. I suspect the film, or at least the bulk of the film that takes place in the city, is going for more of a comic book version of reality. Take the gang confrontation on the L train, one of a multitude of examples; the scene looks as if it stepped outside of a bombastic musical, minus the songs. The bookends of the movie, set in the suburbs, have a closer to real life feel. I’m not sure why the director chose this approach, but I’ll give my theory.

As a child growing up in the far west suburbs of Chicago, I saw the big city as a larger than life place, almost entirely outside of the world I lived in. It seemed anything could happen there, a mysterious universe of danger and excitement. Perhaps the makers of Adventures in Babysitting chose to submerge the main characters into a more outlandish world, as they enter the city, to reflect this vantage point (Or maybe it was done this way simply to create a more fun movie). The suburban sections of the film, which stay more grounded in reality, strengthen the emotional impact of the movie’s youthful heart.

What both sections of the film share is lots of easy going humor, and a keen sense of the unexpected. From Elizabeth Shue’s still superb opening dance to the Crystals “And Then He Kissed Me,” as she daydreams about marrying her boyfriend, to the younger sister’s fascination with Thor, Adventures in Babysitting is a fun-loving ode to youth.

And what fun. Perhaps no other movie brings such a warmth to my heart, in part due, no doubt, to the nostalgia I feel toward it.

Rating: *** (out of ****): Good

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