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HBO presents
Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead (1991)

"No rules, no curfews, no nagging, no pulse."
- Tag line

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: December 23, 2000

Stars: Christina Applegate
Other Stars: Joanna Cassidy, John Goetz, Keith Coogan, Josh Charles
Director: Stephen Herek

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Language and Drug use
Run Time: 01h:40m:29s
Release Date: December 12, 2000
UPC: 026359063725
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- D+C+D+ C-

DVD Review

I am fairly convinced that when the idea for Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead was first conceived, it wasn't done so with consideration of the Oscars®. Having hit theaters shortly after Home Alone took in obscene amounts of money, this "kids are all alone comedy" tried as hard as it could to make the same deal with the devil the John Hughes' picture made. Ultimately Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead failed at the box office and it wasn't due to a lack of business, well yeah it was, but it also had to do with the fact that the film doesn't appeal to the wider age group that Home Alone did. I liked the film when I was younger, and watched it often on cable, but nearly ten years later it doesn't quite hold up. I now know how Grateful Dead fans feel when they stopped taking drugs and finally realized that it was in fact terrible music they were listening to all along.

This is not storytelling with a high arc here, folks, in fact the title pretty much sums up the plot in one sentence. But, for the curious amongst you I will dispel any notions that you may have in your head that the title isn't representative of the movie. When their single mother leaves for Australia for the summer, she leaves her five children behind, and in the hands of an ancient babysitter. When the sitter (Merin) dies in her sleep, the kids have free reign. Dumping the body at a mortuary, they celebrate the beginning of an unsupervised summer. That is until Sue Ellen (Applegate) realizes that she must provide for the family by getting a job.

I can understand that the film isn't exactly true to life. For starters, are we supposed to believe that the babysitter does not have any family, or friends that wouldn't know where her last sitting gig was? Or that the neighbors hadn't noticed the kids skeet shooting with the good china? There is a fine line between humor and stupidity and some movies can play to all ages without going over that line, but unfortunately this movie jumps way over that line and is a hard watch for adults.

The direction by Mighty Ducks helmer Stephen Herek is what should be expected in a movie like this. Herek does nothing overly original, and he has a hard time making us like the characters, a fault shared by the two screenwriters of the film.

Built upon the star power of Christina Applegate, the cast features a variety of unknowns. Applegate, who cut her teeth on the high-class sitcom Married - With Children does what can only be described as a under average job as Sue Ellen. How many times can we see her play the role of mom, while chain smoking throughout the film? And, in what could be the worst part of the film, two actors from the best television shows of the 1990's pop up in mediocre roles. David Duchovny shows up as the smarmy assistant at Sue Ellen's office, and a personal favorite of mine, Josh Charles plays Sue's wannabe boyfriend. For those unfamiliar with Charles, he was in the brilliant Sports Night during its short stint on ABC.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Looking far worse than it should, Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. For the most part the transfer is too soft and much too grainy. Detail is fine, as are the colors. There are a few cases of artifacting noticeable early in the film, but it seems to go away further in. Overall this is about as average a transfer as you can get.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Sporting a Dolby 2.0 channel mix, the film isn't exactly going to be used for reference in anyone's home. Dialogue sounds unclear and a bit soft while the left and right speakers stay quiet for the most part. This isn't a very good track, but luckily so... you can't hear how bad the dialogue is.

Audio Transfer Grade: D+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, and French with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 TV Spots/Teasers
Packaging: Snapper
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead isn't exactly a movie that begs for a special edition, and luckily this disc isn't one. Two TV spots and the trailer are offered. Cast and Crew bios and filmographies are also available.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead is an unfunny movie that only those under the age of ten might like. What do I plan to do with my copy? Come to think of it, I do need something to set my coffee cup on.


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