Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead: Pop Culture Artifact of the 90s

Okay, let me start with a bit of a disclaimer. You can enjoy something and it still not be good. I’m not talking about nostalgia (how I can have nostalgia for a movie I’d never seen before yesterday) but there are just some allowances. Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead is such a movie.

The movie is riddled with plot holes, but as a pop culture artifact, it’s interesting to watch how frantic it is. I mean, the movie starts off pretty quickly with a power struggle. There’s the whole “independence being stifled” thing with her mother, which is made even worse when the babysitter comes into play.

But as the movie progresses, the issue of power becomes even less and less important, and it becomes a story about coming to terms with adulthood and responsibility. It’s weird how the whole movie is about Swell (worst. name. ever.) transforming into the very thing she hated.

I mean, I understand how it’s partially about what we have to do vs. what we’d like to do, but there’s just so much going on, that there’s not really enough time to drive any one point home. Instead, it’s content to wander around directionless until it’s neatly wrapped conclusion. It’s a terrible way to make a movie (no focus, no direction) but for Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead I was kind of just content with what was happening.

That’s probably largely in part due to Christina Applegate. She doesn’t really bring anything to the performance (although it’s hard to really consider this a performance) but she’s enjoyable as she is. The other Crandell children are fine, particularly Keith Coogan (Kenny), who is Applegate’s only real “competition” in the movie.

All in all, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead has a little too much going on for its own good, but it’s forgivable. One example of this is… does seriously no one care that the babysitter’s dead? It gets about 5 minutes screen time at the beginning and a quick scene at the end. The point is, its deeply flawed. No one’s expecting it to win any Oscars, but it’s fun and frivolous for what it is. Maybe if they’d tried to cut down on some of the storylines there might be a little more fluidity, but as it were, I can’t honestly say that I care too much. I watched it not expecting that much and was pleasantly surprised by the talent and some of the humor. If you haven’t seen it or if you’re an 80s/90s child, it’s worth a look, but little else.


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