Friday, June 18, 2010
Inexplicable Movie Review: Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead
One of the first women I ever recall being attractive was Christina Applegate. However, it wasn't from her inspired performance as a dumb blonde on the Ed O'Neill vehicle Married With Children. Nope - I remember her from the cinematic classic Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead.
According to the release date, I was seven when the movie came out in June of 1991. I know I didn't see it in theaters though, so I was more likely in the eight to 10-year-old range.
(Note to any kids reading this in 2020: Back in the day, we had these blocky things called "tapes", which were played by a boxy black thing called a "VCR". Don't ask what VCR stood for, because nobody knew. Anyway, how your parents acquired new movies was via having two old VCRs, and then while one tape played, you used the other VCR with a blank tape to record. Normally, you rented the tape from Stop & Shop... Yeah, they rented movies back in the day, well, them and Almacs. What's Almacs? ... nevermind, I'm sorry I started this whole aside.)
Anyway, Don't Tell Mom starred Applegate as Sue Ellen Crandall, and as you can imagine from the title, a babysitter does die in the film. However, from the title and the beautiful Applegate's presence, you'd think it was some sort of silly teen slasher. Not true! It is instead more of a 1980s "we left the kids alone!" neglect film. Imagine Home Alone without the violence, or a 1980s film teenager film where you actually see the parents a bit.
Specifically, Sue Ellen's mom is in the film for about five minutes. Sue Ellen just wants to veg out and tan in the warm summer months of California, but mom leaves her and the rest of her kids with the world's bitchiest babysitter for two months. Mom is going to Australia for some reason. In true 1980s / 1990s movie fashion, it isn't really explained how a single mom with five kids is able to take off the Australia for a couple months, and on top of that, how she can also afford to leave a big wad of cash with the babysitter. Also, for what it's worth, the babysitter dies in her sleep in the first 20 minutes. The kids leave her body in a trunk at a cemetery with a note attached: "Nice old lady inside. Died of natural causes."
The rest of the family is a hodgepodge of stereotypes. Kenny is a heavy metal loving stoner of an indeterminable age, 15-ish Zach loves the ladies, 13-ish Melissa is a tomboy and young kid Walter loves game shows. Kenny and Sue Ellen (who is billed as 17) get the majority of the screen time though.
Don't Tell Mom isn't actually a good movie, but it is good in the way that The Wizard is good. It is shameless and unapologetic 1990s fluff, straight down to the generic clown fast food restaurant that Sue Ellen is forced to work at to make ends meet. She goes from this to being able to bluff her way to a fashion job, based on her forging the resume of a fashion executive. (One confusing aspect of this plotline: If you were a fashion executive, wouldn't you just take one look at Christina Applegate and go, "Hey, maybe you should give the modeling thing a try!")
Of course, since Sue Ellen is living a lie, this results in 1) a funny transition period and 2) a conniving co-worker catching her in the lie and 3) a final scene where she succeeds wildly anyway, but is busted and forced to come clean. All of this happens, and oddly enough, David Duchovny [right] is involved in one of his first roles as a lecherous sort of advertising executive, or some made-up bullshit like that. Go figure.
Again, none of this is high cinema. However, it is a great flick, and Christina Applegate sure does look hot in it, and there is a fashion show at the end that also features some other good-looking friends of hers. So, yeah, the movie has that going for it too, which is nice.
The Almacs photo come from this excellent site, which has a bunch of info about the old Rhode Island chain. The top photo comes from an Entertainment Weekly slideshow thingy on the best movie titles.