Pop Rocks: The (2nd) Greatest Summer of Movies Continues With Adventures in Babysitting
1982 may have been the Greatest Summer of Movies Ever, according to the Alamo Drafthouse, but 1987 was a close second.
Chicago. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.
I have dibs on Elisabeth Shue.
I'm old enough to remember the first...stirrings of manhood while watching Jaclyn Smith on Charlie's Angels and Lynda Carter in Wonder Woman, but any lingering fears about my heterosexuality were swept aside like a Miyagi "wax-off" when I first saw her in The Karate Kid. It was a double-date, and I honestly can't remember the name of the girl I went to the movies with that night, so enraptured was I by that popped collar, that sweater, those tube socks.
Shue's '80s résumé is solid, if less iconic than Molly Ringwald's and less va-va-va-voom than Phoebe Cates's. We'll overlook the curious 1986 horror movie Link and jump straight to the heavies: Back to the Future Part II, Cocktail (it took awhile, but I finally forgave Shue for allowing Tom Cruise to impregnate her) and today's 2nd Best Summer of Movies' Selection: Adventures in Babysitting.
I'm not exaggerating when I say this is the only movie directed by Chris Columbus I've ever liked. Is it the setting? I mean, Chicago's a great town, but the movie was mostly shot in Toronto. Is it the sublime douchebaggery of Bradley Whitford? Close, but no banana. No, in the end, it's all about Chris Parker, the fresh-faced suburban girl who braved inner-city hell to rescue a friend. Don't fuck with the babysitter.
How much do babysitters charge, in general? I think we pay ours a lot, but my kids are children of Satan. At the end of the night, Brad (Keith Coogan) advises Chris to ask for a buck more an hour. It seems reasonable.
In hindsight, Chris Columbus's directorial debut is meant to be a fairy tale. How else to explain kindly frat boys (the dreamy Dan Lynch), a slender Vincent D'Onofrio or the film's central precept: that Mike Todwell (Bradley Whitford) would stand Chris up for that skank Sesame Plexer? That last part isn't revealed until the very end, but only because showing it to us right off the bat would be asking too much of the audience.
Through the '70s and '80s, Americans migrated to the suburbs in droves, leading to entire generations of kids whose sole experience in cities was restricted to daylight excursions with the fam or tightly supervised school field trips. Adventures in Babysitting wasn't the first movie to demonstrate the disconnect between suburban kids and urban reality (Risky Business might earn that honor), and it wasn't an especially realistic look at the concept.
Would Chris and her charges have been in significantly greater danger if their car broke down on the expressway in real life? It depends. Cell phones didn't exist and Chicago didn't have a SAFEClear program in 1987, so they were pretty lucky when "Handsome" John Pruitt happened along their stricken car. The days before 3G; I guess you had to be there.
In truth, the entire group is treated with kid gloves the entire night. Sure, the subway scene might be harrowing to an audience not weaned on tales of Zeta atrocities, but I think we know this could've ended up a lot worse: