The Babysitter (1995)

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:

Embrace of the Vampire

Belle de Jour

The Temp

The Babysitter

Lava Lamp

Our rating: one LAVA® motion lamp.

She hates it when we call her
"That Aerosmith chick."
Someone told us, we don't remember who, that Alicia Silverstone made a movie based on a Jane Austen novel in 1995. We thought that would be a neat movie to see. Unfortunately, The Babysitter isn't a very good remake of Emma. The filmmakers would have to have been pretty darn clueless to think this movie captured the delicate romance of the original novel.

Alicia Silverstone plays a babysitter. Okay, so far we have a pretty good correlation between the title and the subject matter. The sitter, named Jennifer, is babysitting for a family that was featured on the cover of Dysfunctionals Quarterly. The two adults, Harry and Dolly, are off to a party, leaving their spawn in the hands of the MTV icon, and the entire movie takes place on that one night.

As the couple prepare for their evening of round after round of drunken recriminations, we meet Jeff, Jennifer's boyfriend or something. We are instantly clued into the fact that he's a thoughtful loner because we first see him sitting by himself in a diner reading Catcher in the Rye. Jack is confronted by Mark, a bad boy, complete with red shirt and leather jacket, who works an Iago-like spell on Jack, convincing him that Jennifer is easy, and that he (Jack) should go over to the house where Jennifer is babysitting and get her drunk so some hanky panky can happen.

As disgusting as that is, that's nothing compared to Harry (J. T. Walsh). Harry has constant fantasies about Jennifer, and the movie takes the time and effort to commit them to celluloid. Boy, nothing makes better cinema than watching J. T. Walsh leer at Alicia Silverstone after surprising her in the bathtub. In another fantasy, Walsh interrupts Jennifer and Jack in the act, throws Jack out, and then purrs to the half-naked Jennifer something like "We already have one secret tonight. Let's make it two." That smoothie!

This scene scored highly with
the majority of sexual predators polled.
Meanwhile, Mark and Jeff arrive at the house and spy on Jennifer. We are subjected to their fantasies. Oh, but the film hasn't punished us enough! Then we get one of the babysat's (a twelve year old boy) fantasies about Jennifer. And as a bonus we get to see Dolly's (Lee Garlington) adulterous fantasies about a neighbor (George Segal). Sure, we've all had sexual fantasies about George Segal, but did they have to put them on film?

The point of all this may be to show that women are often little more than sexual objects to men, but if a movie is going to do that and be deep at the same time, the woman in question should probably be more than an object. Unfortunately, she doesn't do much in the film, other than be Alicia Silverstone. What little dialogue she does deliver helped us to understand why she rose to stardom in what was essentially a silent medium. Her character of Jennifer is a total cipher. Things that would greatly facilitate our understanding of her character, like why she doesn't want Jack over when she babysits, are totally left out of the movie.

Such is our displeasure with this movie, that we intend to spoil the ending of the movie in the next paragraph. So if you don't want to know, stop reading.

As things come to a head, Jack and Mark break into the house, where Mark beats up Jack and attempts to rape Jennifer. At the same time Harry drives home, full of liquor and thoughts of pederasty. Mark chases Jennifer outside, where the sauced Harry runs over Mark, killing him. So what is the moral of the movie? That attractive young babysitters are the root of all bad things that happen to men? That drunk driving perverts are the ultimate dispensors of justice in the universe? Or is it as Homer Simpson says, that there is no moral and it's "Just a bunch of stuff that happened"? There is one moral that we can be sure of: we should have rented a different movie. Hey, that seems to be the moral of a lot of films we watch.

Review date: 06/29/1998

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