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‘Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead’

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 07, 1991


Stephen Herek
Christina Applegate;
Joanna Cassidy;
John Getz;
Keith Coogan;
Josh Charles
Children under 13 should be accompanied by a parent

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Don't tell the studio, but its movie's dead. And as we used to say as kids -- rest in pieces.

A cross-pollination of "Home Alone" and "The Secret of My Success," "Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead" is the kind of movie that makes you wish you could sneak into the projection booth with a pair of pinking shears. To say that it's dead isn't really fair; nothing that's dead could be this obnoxious.

The babysitter part of the film is really little more than a prologue. Mom (Concetta Tomei) has a brood of ratty, undisciplined kids; she goes on a well-deserved summer vacation, leaving the kids in the care of a kindly looking old granny (Eda Reiss Merin) who is really more like the sarge from "Gomer Pyle" in geriatric drag. She's tough, but not tough enough, and after one look at brother Kenny's heavy-metal lair, she keels over. After depositing her body in a trunk and leaving it on the steps of a funeral home, the kids discover that -- whoops! -- the old bag had the cash Mom left for the summer hidden away somewhere.

Penniless and faced with the choice between calling Mom and going to work, sister Sue Ellen (played with a perpetual sour pout by ersatz teen dream Christina Applegate) fudges her re'sume' and gets a choice gig as an executive assistant for a fashion company specializing in uniforms. Naturally, she rises to the top.

Meanwhile, every second is agonizing. The kids -- there are five of them -- are meant to be impossible (all the better for their transformation at the end), but the filmmakers couldn't have intended them to be quite as hateful and mean-spirited as they come off. They're like midget bikers, these kids. They'll make you want to give some "Psycho"-style shower therapy to every teenager in sight.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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