Remember when we used to criticize the 1980s for being a very silly and dated time period? I used to think that this time period was an awkward decade placed right in between the 1970s and 1990s. When I thought of fashion, music, and movies, I felt like the 1970s and the late 90s were more connected to each other. Well, twenty years have passed and this once “laughed-at” decade is now respectable. As we know, trends take time to develop and the 1980s are back! The contempt I had for this decade has now transformed into respect, especially for movies from the 1980s.
Movies from the 1980s have received a lot of criticism over the years, but the one advantage that this era has over every other movie decade is the “teen film” genre. There have been great movies for teenagers and children in every decade but the ones from the 1980s have a certain charm that makes these films so magical, memorable, and ridiculously rewatchable. The bizarre characteristics of the 1980s channeled into these films have turned them into timeless, fairytale-like creations.
I had never seen Adventures in Babysitting before watching this Blu-ray the other night. When I was eleven years old in 1987, I remember why I chose not to see the film – I thought that a story about a babysitter was not interesting, after all, the title is called “Adventures in Babysitting.” Babysitters were not cool in my mind at the time. When the movie played on TV throughout the years, I still didn’t feel like watching it. All I knew about Adventures in Babysitting was that the psycho from Full Metal Jacket (Vincent D’Onofrio) had a cameo as superhero Thor.
I am pleased to report that Adventures in Babysitting is right up there with other 1980s teen classics such as The Goonies, Back to the Future, The Neverending Story, Labyrinth, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Gremlins, The Karate Kid, Teen Wolf, Sixteen Candles, Flight of the Navigator, etc.
Directed by Chris Columbus (Harry Potter, Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire), Adventures in Babysitting is about suburban high schooler Chris Parker (Elisabeth Shue) who agrees to babysit 9-year old Sara, her 15-year old brother Brad, and his best friend Daryl. A typical night of babysitting ain’t gonna happen as Chris gets a phone call from her neurotic best friend Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller) who runs away from her home and is stuck at a seedy train station in Chicago. Flipping out with fear, Brenda begs Chris to pick her up and take her back home. Reluctant to take the kids into the city, Chris wants to help her friend so she takes the station wagon into the city with kids in tow. Adventures in babysitting begin and this film has all the elements of a 1980s comedy classic:
First, you have the main high school leads (Shue, Miller, and Bradley Whitford) played by actors in their mid to late twenties so that if you watched this film when you were a kid in the 1980s, you may have questioned your own puberty, “how come all teenagers in these films look so old and mature? What’s wrong with me? Am I not drinking enough milk? How come I don’t look like a man in high school?”
Second, you have a PG-13 movie that is actually made for older children and teenagers. Nowadays, the difference between PG (Daddy Day Care) and PG-13 (The Dark Knight) is huge. There seems to be no films made for junior-high school kids anymore. A PG-rated movie nowadays is usually for little kids. A PG-13 movie is usually made for older teenagers and adults. In the 1980s, there were so many PG and PG-13 rated films geared to the 8 to 13-year-old demographic without dumbing down the material as is done so often today. Adventures in Babysitting is one of these 1980s films that retains the charm of family films with a mixture of adult subjects such as sex and crime. Add a dose of kids cursing and you have your typical 1980s film made for older children. Everything is so currently politically correct, I can barely think of any movies nowadays that are made for the 8 to 13-year-old age bracket that deal with growing-up issues. Diary of a Wimpy Kid? Where the Wild Things Are?
As a film that doesn’t dumb down the material for the sake of being politically correct, Adventures in Babysitting covers important themes that may concern an 8-year old, a 15-year old, or a 17-year old. Since all the protagonist kids and teenagers in this film are so damn likable, the viewer has no problem relating to any of their issues. We get to look through the eyes of 10-year old Sara as she leaves the safe suburbs and is exposed to the scary city filled with dark smoky streets with bums standing around those garbage-can fires (another trait that’s always in 80s films), suspicious-looking tow truck drivers, teenage hookers, gang members, car thieves, and creepy mafioso. Sara is still an innocent kid filled with no fear so she embraces the adventure. But the older kids and teenagers are scared shitless, which is so realistic. As I was a child of the 80s, growing up in the New Jersey suburbs, my frequent visits to New York City evolved from amazement to paranoia as I gradually got older. But I still loved the city at every age, and I remember how so many 1980s films really exaggerated those fears of newcomers entering a city. What I would like to see in a Hollywood film someday is the opposite: a city kid moving to the suburbs in which the suburbs are shown in a scary, exaggerated way. I have seen a bunch of films of city kids moving to the country, films of kids going to a new school, and films of city folk getting stuck in some redneck town, but I can’t think of any films of city kids moving to the scary suburbs!
As much as I loved watching this film, I felt a little sad too because Adventures in Babysitting features two of my favorite underrated actresses of all time: Elisabeth Shue and Penelope Ann Miller. They have had their hits over the years with Elisabeth Shue starring in Cocktail, Back to the Future, The Saint, Leaving Las Vegas, and Penelope Ann Miller starring in Awakenings, Kindergarten Cop, Carlito’s Way, The Shadow, and The Artist. Both actresses are absolutely amazing in this film. It may seem like nothing, but Elisabeth Shue delivered such a natural performance of a typical nice 17-year old girl. I can’t think of too many actresses that can consistently convey genuineness in their roles as she does. Penelope Ann Miller quite surprised me in this movie. I knew that she was good at playing drama, but I had no idea how talented she is with comedy. She didn’t have as many scenes as Elisabeth Shue, but her own adventures in a Chicago train station are extremely funny and puts on a comic performance that is like a mixture of Charlie Chaplin and Woody Allen. So it’s sort of sad to see that they were two up-and-coming actresses, they had some fame, and now they are more or less forgotten in Hollywood. I’m happy that they pop up in movies here and there once in a while, but I don’t like seeing such talented, likable, still-gorgeous actresses get placed to the side in Hollywood.
I really like the 1080p 1.85:1 video transfer offered here from Touchstone. This transfer looks very solid given its age and is right at the border of getting a four-out-of-five score, but the abundant amount of flickering grain of black backgrounds during the many night scenes is a bit hard to ignore. I like grain but not when it’s shaking. Other than that, the video transfer is really nice. When you see Elisabeth Shue and Penelope Ann Miller on screen, you’ll know that this Blu-ray is a terrific video transfer of a catalog 1980s title. These two beautiful actresses look amazing in hi-def. Besides the trembling grain in dark background scenes, the scenes in the foreground are still clear with detail, the day scenes or brightly lit scenes stand out the most with excellent sharpness, and the presentation is clean with no dirt or scratches. This Blu-ray is probably the best we’ll ever get with Adventures in Babysitting.
Focused mainly on the front speakers, the English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is still very strong and has excellent stereo separation. The soundtrack and bar/party music is pumped up at a slightly higher volume than dialogue but in a good way. The balance is generally pleasing with clear dialogue and no unwanted background hisses and pops. The bass has some presence during the action and music scenes. Overall, this mix is really good and a wonderful way to hear this flick!
French DD 2.0 and Spanish DD 2.0, as well as English, English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are also included.
This Blu-ray only has a Who Framed Roger Rabbit Blu-ray trailer.
I did see the unofficial remake, The Sitter, in theaters. The film was entertaining and I liked that the screenwriting made Jonah Hill look cool for a change rather than perceived as an insecure loser in his other films. But the movie was not even close to being memorable as Adventures in Babysitting. Newer movies may try to capture the magical, fun essence of the 1980s such as in The Sitter, Donnie Darko, or The Girl Next Door, but they just come across as mean-spirited, too dark, and/or parodies.
Just as Elisabeth Shue is one of Hollywood’s most underrated actresses, Adventures in Babysitting is an underrated comedy classic from the 1980s that should be seen. If you love teen comedy films from that era, then what are you waiting for? Watch this movie!