Thursday, May 23, 2024

“DON’T TELL MOM THE BABYSITTER’S DEAD”

THE STORY – Tanya finds her summer plans cancelled when her mum jets off for a last-minute retreat and the elderly babysitter unexpectedly passes away.

THE CAST – Simone Joy Jones, June Squibb, Nicole Richie, Ms. Pat, Donielle Hansley Jr., Jermaine Fowler, Miles Fowler, Iantha Richardson, Gus Kenworthy, Tyriq Withers, Ayaamii Sledge & Carter Young

THE TEAM – Wade Allain-Marcus (Director) & Chuck Hayward (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 99 Minutes


Remaking and rebooting films of yesteryear is all the craze in Hollywood these days, as seen with movies like “Mean Girls,” “Ghostbusters” and the upcoming “Nosferatu.” Sometimes, these remakes are warranted as a way to right some of their insensitive wrongs, while other times, there’s no valid reason, aside from money-making purposes. The 1991 coming-of-age black comedy “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead” is the latest in this remake trend. While it doesn’t appear anyone was dying for a modern version of the film, director Wade Allain-Marcus delivers a charming, Gen Z-ified reboot with a great young cast and plenty of humor throughout.

Teen Tanya Crandell (Simone Joy Jones) is gearing up for the summer of a lifetime with a trip to Spain with friends before starting Howard University in the fall. That is until her mother (Ms. Pat) suffers a breakdown at work and decides to go on a wellness retreat to Thailand. Instead of enjoying siestas, Tanya has to stay home with her siblings and be under the watchful eye of their elderly babysitter (June Squibb). Squibb fires on all cylinders, showing just how mean, out-of-touch, and quite racist Ms. Sturak can be.

But, as the film’s title suggests, Squibb is soon gone when Ms. Sturak dies in her sleep one night, leaving the rambunctious Crandell kids all to themselves. First, they have to handle their babysitter’s corpse, which includes placing her precariously and hilariously in a refrigerator and nearly ousting themselves when a police officer visits. Then, once they realize they’ve lost all of the food money their mother gave Ms. Sturak – whose body is later properly disposed of by wise-beyond-her-years little sister Melissa (Ayaamii Sledge) – Tanya must get a job and take care of her family.

Some might think the silliness of “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead” wouldn’t work in the modern era. Back in the 1990s, people didn’t have access to social media to look up a potential employee, verify their age, and check their LinkedIn profile to ensure everything on their resume checks out. But Gen Z kids are savvy, and this film knows how to use that to its advantage. Tanya’s younger siblings craft up a fake resume, Photoshop her college graduation photos, and fake references to help her land a job at a fashion company. Tanya becomes an assistant to the confident, ambitious, and sometimes a little too in-over-her-head Rose (Nicole Richie, who channels her silly side, even if some acting moments look awkward). Not only does this gig help keep the family alive, but Tanya also gains a deeper appreciation for her mother: a woman raising four children on her own with little help or respect from others. Tanya goes through a pretty serious transformation in the film – from a party girl teen to a confident young woman – and it’s grounded well by Jones’ performance. She shows off her “older sister energy” by trying to get all her siblings in line and doing her best to provide for everyone while still charming viewers with her comedic chops.

Though much of the film focuses on Tanya, her job struggles, and a blooming romance with a charming and intelligent student named Bryan (Miles Fowler), Chuck Hayward’s script ensures the rest of the Crandell siblings get plenty of time to shine. Stoner brother Kenny (Donielle Hansley Jr.) seems uninterested and incapable of handling his younger siblings or helping out his older sister. It’s easy to write him off, but when it’s revealed just how much he changed after his father’s death – going from an achieving student to someone lacking any passion – he gets his own redemption arc that is satisfying to watch. Melissa and Zack (Carter Young) also bring plenty of comedic moments to the film, especially when we see the older Crandall siblings be a little fearful of their ultra-savvy and intelligent little sister. Even though they get up to plenty of shenanigans, this brings these four siblings together in an endearing way.

There’s quite a lot that this film packs in that doesn’t get explored – the death of the children’s father, a near company collapse at Tanya’s job, and drama with Tanya’s coworkers – and some characters fall flat, but this doesn’t totally hinder the viewing experience. “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead” brings this silly tale to the modern era and has fun doing it. What Allain-Marcus does best with his remake is show that kids will be crazy, rambunctious kids no matter the century. And, unlike many other remakes we’ve seen in recent years, this one doesn’t fall into the usual cash-grab traps and instead shows a sweet and silly story of a family coming closer together.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - A charming Gen Z-ified reboot with a great young cast and plenty of humor throughout. A strong performance from Simone Joy Jones.

THE BAD - This film packs in quite a lot that isn't explored, and some characters fall flat.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 6/10

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Ema Sasic
Ema Sasic
Journalist for The Desert Sun. Film critic and awards season enthusiast. Bosnian immigrant

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Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>A charming Gen Z-ified reboot with a great young cast and plenty of humor throughout. A strong performance from Simone Joy Jones.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>This film packs in quite a lot that isn't explored, and some characters fall flat.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>6/10<br><br>"DON'T TELL MOM THE BABYSITTER'S DEAD"