Growing up, I was generally babysat by my grandfather or my older brother. And when I hit my teen years, I didn’t really do any babysitting of my own, earning my money instead through side gigs at Blimpies, Pei Wei Asian Diner and working the Guest Services Booth at the Aurora Mall.
Still, there’s a certain allure and nostalgia that exists around babysitting even for those who weren’t frequent babysitters or babies being sat (babies being babysat? Babies to be sat?) For kids, it was a night where rules were more lax, where you could put whip cream on your chicken or get to watch Goodfellas without your parents telling you no. For babysitters, it was a quick and easy buck, and if you had a boyfriend or girlfriend, a new location where you could get snuggly when the kids were asleep
Being able to hone in on that sense of excitement, wonder and unabashed freedom until the parents came home that only babysitting can provide is what makes Adventures in Babysitting such a joyous delight of a film. It captures that sense that anything is possible during a babysitting adventure and elevates it to new urban levels. Elizabeth Shue captures the innocence but hard-working attitude of a teenage babysitter, dedicated to her job but still willing to let her kids have a little fun and taste a little danger. Keith Coogan and Anthony Rapp tap into the young teens caught at the awkward prepubescent phase of not being “adult” enough to be a true cohort of Shue, but not quite young enough to be just a helpless child she’s rearing either. And Penelope Ann Miller is a delight as Brenda, a wide-eyed young girl with a hearty fandom for Thor and a sense of adventure that can’t be thwarted. It’s a group of individuals who realize that staying at home is the safer option, and that’s probably what they should be doing, but instead are just making this one night out their little secret.
That’s really what makes us gravitate towards Adventures in Babysitting so strongly, that even though it isn’t remarkable or even that funny of a film by any means, it’s buoyed by simple but well-meaning characters who when asked if they want to partake in adventure, graciously say “yes, and then some.”