Directed by Stephen Herek
102 mins. Color.
In 1991 when Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead came out I was 5 years old, probably watched it in '92, and like the kids in the film I belonged to a large family in a lower middle class environment. At the time I liked to imagine myself as Kevin McCallister (Home Alone, ner), but really I was more like Walter Crandell, the gross youngest brother in Don't Tell Mom who is hardly ever out of his dirty pajamas and who's idea of luxury is a bowl of a more expensive brand of cereal and a big screen TV.
Don't Tell Mom begins with the overwhelmed mother of 5 useless children leaving for vacation, alone. She has, to the dismay of the children, hired a babysitter. An old woman who acts all sweet at first but turns out more like Major Payne. She tries to cramp Kenny's (the oldest brother's) style, and she makes Sue Ellen (the oldest sister played by Christina Applegate) put out her cigarette.
Then she crosses the line. Makes them clean up the house. The house is my favorite part of this film. It's big, yes, like the McCallister's house, but with one detail much more true to the life of a family with 5 useless kids. It is destroyed. The kitchen is disgusting: open pizza boxes on the counter, filled with crusts. Moldy sandwiches. Crushed cans. Spilled milk. The living room is covered in laundry and dirty and broken toys are stuffed behind the couch. Dead plants. A TV in the corner turned on but with nobody watching. Like what Buzz McCallister's living situation might more likely resemble. Kind of gross. Penthouse over Playboy.
|Hey, get out...|
Since the title of the film gives it away, I'll skip to after the Babysitter dies of a heart attack, presumably induced by this new fucked up generation of lazy, over-sexed children. Now, in lieu of an income while Mom is away, Christina Applegate (Sue Ellen) is forced to get a job. Kenny, it is agreed, will officiate babysitting duties, which, to him means getting baked with his friends (also worthless) and letting the younger ones work it out among themselves. Zach, the prematurely sexual middle child, teaches little Walter by example to steal money from Christina Applegate's purse. Walter in turn blows all they've got on a giant stereo system.
My favorite scene in Don't Tell Mom is probably the one they would show on I Love the 90s if they showed one. To me, it's iconic: Shot in the toy section of a Walmart. Plastic in droves on metal hangers against plywood walls. Christina Applegate and her fast-food-employee-boyfriend bouncing on those big rubber balls with handles through aisles and aisles of more things. The soundtrack singing "In a perfect world." It's the only scene that comes off like a teen romance a la She's All That or Never Been Kissed. Immediately after, however, the camera shifts back to broken dishes in a broke ass house.
To me, there's too much going on in this movie to go into all of it. But what made it especially enjoyable to rewatch after all these years was my new ability to step outside of it in a way that was impossible back then. To appreciate the non-romantic side of childhood portrayed, and recognize the self-awareness of the film. Two thumbs up.
Set yourself up:
Take out an enormous loan and buy a state of the art entertainment center.
Refrain from cleaning your house for 6 months, or just stop entirely.
Pour a whole box of Cap'n Crunch and a quart of milk into a giant salad bowl.
- Joel Schmitz.
Joel is a brilliant writer, emerging Columbian drug-lord and dear friend of the site.