Don’t Tell Mom-The Babysitter’s Dead

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

What was once a little-known movie in the Summer of 1991 (the summer of T2, Thelma & Louise and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), is now on DVD. Starring then up and coming actress, Christina Applegate. Applegate, best known for her ditzy Kelly Bundy character on “Married: With Children”, was on the verge of a blossoming acting career. Was it this movie that sunk it for her…or not? True, this movie wasn’t the launching pad that some other stars have had (Edward Norton in Primal Fear, Mark Whalberg in Boogie Nights or Sandra Bullock in While You Were Sleeping), but the cast was full of seasoned actors and even another up and coming actor by the name of David Duchovny. Directed by Stephen Herek, who has helmed other hits such as The Mighty Ducks, 101 Dalmations, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Holy Man and the dramatic Mr. Holland’s Opus, Don’t Tell Mom…didn’t quite live up to the standards that his past or future movies did.

Now the plot is simple enough…Rose Lindsey (Joanna Cassidy) has had it with her kids and needs a break. So she’s off to Australia for the Summer, leaving the crew with what seems to be a perfect old woman babysitter. No sooner than the door shuts, than she turns into a Drill Sergeant. The kids take this abuse for about a day and upon confronting her, discover that she has keeled over dead. Not knowing what to do, they stuff her in a box, attach a note and drop her off at a local funeral home (everyone would do that, right?). And it’s not long that they discover that all the money that mommy had left was on the dead babysitter. So now what? It’s up to Kenny (Keith Coogan) or Sue Ellen (Christina Applegate) to get a job so that the family can eat. As fate would have it, Sue Ellen is the one chosen to get a job over her stoner brother. It’s off to the Clown Dog where she meets Bryan (Josh Charles) and lasts all of a day. Forging a resume, she lands an Executive Administrative Assistant job at General Apparel West (GAW) much to the disgust of the rude receptionist (who just happens to be Bryan’s older sister…my what a small world Los Angeles is).

Sue Ellen finds that life in the workplace is indeed hard and can see her mother’s point of view for wanting a much needed vacation. It’s not long before she is up to her neck in paperwork and trying to protect her identity as she doesn’t want anyone to know that she’s only 17 years old. While the plot is amazingly predictable, Don’t Tell Mom…has it’s fun points. Though it tries to be a bit of a comedy and a drama, the story and the acting are somewhat solid. Subplots towards the end get a bit tacky as the whole crew may or may not do a comeplete turnaround (like I’m really giving alot away here) and all live happily ever after. Ultimately, Don’t Tell Mom-The Babysitter’s Dead is another movie lost in the shuffle of Summer movies back in 1991, but it may find it’s audience with it’s treatment on DVD.

Video: How does it look?

Now this is kind of amazing. I saw Don’t Tell Mom-The Babysitter’s Dead when it came out in 1991. I haven’t seen it since, so it’s safe to say that even back then I wasn’t paying attention to the video quality of the movie. When I popped the disc in, I found it hard to believe that this was one of the best transfers that I have ever seen on DVD. Yes, really. What’s sort of odd is that it doesn’t have that “filmlike” look like most all other DVD’s tend to have. It almost looks as if it were shot at some “in between” stage of film and video. Difficult to describe. Anyhow, the picture is crystal clear with a remarkable level of clarity. No artifacting and the black levels were right on as well. The colors seemed to be a bit oversaturaged, but color me impressed as this was the second time that I have been so impressed by a DVD transfer (the first being North by Northwest). I don’t know if it was HBO or the negative that they used or what…but whatever it was, keep up the good work as this was one outstanding transfer.

Audio: How does it sound?

Taking a backseat to the video presentation here, the audio is a Dolby Surround mix. Most of the action is limited to the front three speakers and even most of that is limited to dialogue. Speaking of the dialogue, it’s clear and without distortion, but it seems drowned out by some of the stock early 90’s soundtrack that plays througout the movie. Surrounds were used maybe once or twice, but all in all, the surround mix was suitable for this movie.

Supplements: What are the extras?

HBO, when they want to, can churn out some of the best special editions that you’ve ever put into your player. On the other hand, most of thier titles are catalog or their original movies. Don’t Tell Mom-The Babysitter’s Dead features two TV spots and the original trailer in full-frame. Also included are some fairly in-depth cast and crew bios. Interesting, though, that the trailer is found under the “Special Features” option. Overall, Don’t Tell Mom-The Babysitter’s Dead looks outstanding, though you’ll want to rent it if you haven’t seen it first. A good early 90’s teen comedy.

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