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

Before directing movies like Mr. Holland’s OpusThe Mighty Ducks, the live action 101 DalmatiansRock Star and Life or Something Like It, Stephen Herek was behind movies like CrittersBill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and this film.

Sue Ellen Crandell (Christina Applegate) is 17 and stuck at home while her mother goes to Australia and her friends go to Europe. Now, she’s in charge of her 16-year-old stoner metalhead brother Kenny, 14-year-old Zach, 13-year-old Melissa (Halloween franchise star Danielle Harris) and 11-year-old Walter (Robert Hy Gorman, Sometimes They Come Back and Leprechan).

Her mom hires a babysitter for the summer named Mrs. Sturak, who ends up being mean to everyone until she dies from a heart attack. So they do what anyone else would: they put her in a trunk and send her to a funeral home.

They screwed up in one major way: the old lady’s body had all the money. Sue Ellen tries to work at Clown Dog and falls for Bryan, but quits because of the manager. She then makes a fake resume for a job at General Apparel West, where she works as an executive assistant, for Rose Lindsey (Joanna Cassidy, The GloveWho Framed Roger Rabbit?).

This pisses off Carolyn and Bruce (David Duchovny), two young workers who hate that she’s jumped ahead of them. Of course, this being a teen movie, Carolyn and Bryan end up being brother and sister.

There’s so much going on in this movie: drugs, kids falling off the roof, car stealing drag queens and a fashion show. Of course, everything works out fine. It’s a teen comedy. That’s how it works.

Production was nearly shut down to the actor who played Zach — Christopher Pettiet — having issues with drugs. They cut his scenes down so that they could finish the film. Sadly, he died nine years later of an accidental drug overdose.

Keith Coogan, who played Kenny, ended up being in two movies where parents were nowhere to be found. That’s because he’s also in Adventures in Babysitting.

My wife loves this movie. Seeing as how she’s probably one of its biggest fans, I felt that I should interview her.

Sam: Why do you like this movie so much?

Becca: Mostly because of her clothes. That’s why I watched it so many times when I was little. I looked up to her. And she smoked.

Sam: How many times have you seen it?

Becca: Thousands. At least.

Sam: Did you rent it every time?

Becca: In the beginning, but then I recorded it off HBO.

Sam: What’s your favorite part of this movie?

Becca: The fashion show at the end. And I thought that boy was cute.

Sam: The boy who worked at Clown Dog?

Becca: His name is Bryan. Yes.

Sam: Is it strange that Danielle Harris is in so many movies that you love?

Becca: Yeah but that’s what you get for being a kid actor. She was in a bunch of things. She was a mean kid here, but she played nice kids too.

Sam: Was this movie true to your 1980’s childhood?

Becca: Not really. My parents would have had ten kids, if they would have done that, maybe. Our house was always clean and my mom wouldn’t let anyone babysit us. So no.

Sam: Does your brother remind of Kenny?

Becca: Back then, no. But now more than ever. He’s more like Hell Hound, the slower one of Kenny’s friends.

Sam: Did you like a young David Duchovny?

Becca: Not with that hair. He had like a bob pulled into a ponytail. His name is Bruce. He’s head inventory clerk.

Sam: What else would you like to add?

Becca: I think Sue Ellen should have stayed working for GAW and not gone to college. General Apparel West if you must know. Because Rose loved her and I would have loved to have had a boss like that.

One thought on “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (1991)

  1. This movie came out just before I graduated from high school, so it, along with IF LOOKS COULD KILL and CAREER OPPORTUNITIES, happened to land right in my demographic.

    There was a joke I was too young to get at the time in which Rose gives Sue Ellen a beauty tip about placing cucumber slices over her eyes and adds “Every girl should have a cucumber!” in a suggestive way I didn’t decode for years.

    I loved the moment when Sue Ellen remembered to say “I’m right on top of that, Rose!” and Rose gave her an approving gesture. I think Kenny looked cooler as a metalhead than a preppie, but at least his makeover impressed the girl he liked. And it was a nice moment when he vacuumed the couch not because anyone told him to but just because “it needed it.”

    This movie was the first time I’d ever heard of “grunion.” Must be a regional thing.

    I could have sworn Carolyn was played by Jennifer Hetrick (Vash on STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION), but upon further checking, apparently not. I feel like I just moved into a parallel universe.


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