Adventures in Babysitting

Director: Chris Columbus

USA - 1987



Movies that are set in Chicago hold a special place in my heart.  Even before I knew I was going to be living here, I loved seeing Chicago-based movies, because, unlike New York or L.A., I’d been to Chicago, and I really related to its Midwestern sensibilities.  Well, that and it didn’t have the same paranoia as New York, nor the vapid superficiality of Los Angeles.  That’s one of the major reasons I don’t mind living here.  I never thought of myself as a big city dweller, but I seem to have adapted quite well to the urban sprawl, and if you can live here, you Is it just me, or is this suggestive?can live anywhere.  If you want to make it anywhere, you still have to go to New York, though, at least according to the song.  As for L.A., if you weren’t born in the eastern part of it, I don’t have a good song for you.  Sorry.

But we’re not talking about New York, we’re talking about Adventures in Babysitting.  Similar in several ways to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, it is a cartoon-ish caper of ever-expanding complications that leads from the suburbs to the city and back again.  However, it has two things that Ferris doesn’t have; a little girl who wants to be Thor, and a major plot point involving a Playboy magazine.

By the way, there’s a Chicago band by the name of “Save Ferris,” and if they play at the Cubby Bear, a local bar venue which rents advertising space on the marquee at Wrigley, then you can theoretically drive by and see “Save Ferris” up on the Wrigley Field sign.  Is that way cool, or is it just me?  Okay.  Well, then is it a little bit cool?

And I have an anecdote about Playboy, too, but I’ll save that for when I review something more adult.

Okay, so where were we?

Adventures was one of those things that I thought looked stupid in the theater, because I was a teenager, and even Elisabeth Shue wasn’t enough to entice me in (which is just plain crazy).  But then I got older, and thought the image on the video box (a bunch of people, mostly kids, doing a Batman-esque rope-climbing deal up the side of a building) was quirky enough, I thought I’d rent it.  Hey, at least it wasn’t an awful action movie like Steel Dawn; I was maturing, to the point where I was willing to try “family comedies,” so I figured it was progress.

As it turned out, I was pleasantly surprised by the level the movie was aiming for.  Some family comedies seem to aim for the youngest set, making everything softer and safer, basically Teletubbies with clearer dialogue.  Then there are those that are suitable for teens and adults, which are still nice enough for kids.  Angus is one of those, if just barely (language, people, language!  I believe in profanity, but there’s an age for it, and an age where it’s not appropriate), and Adventures fits even more solidly into this category as well, language and all.

Let me say this about high-school movies.  Heathers broke modern ground when it showed the pettyWindow into obsession, one. infighting and casual nastiness of the average suburban high school.  It’s not that previous portrayals were bad, I just feel they were old-fashioned.  I’m sure the high school movies of the ‘60s were groundbreaking in their own way, but I can’t recall seeing the rampant cliqueishness that so shaped my own high school years until Heathers.  And I still have that catchy “Teenage Suicide (Don’t Do It!)” song in my head, from time to time.  But it ushered in a bunch of more modern-feeling high school movies, from Better Off Dead, Three O’Clock High and How I Got Into College to The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and Pretty In Pink.  Some of them may have been made before Heathers, but they’re all in the same vein.  Adventures is this same sort of thing.  I don’t know if it’s something in the film stock or the subject matter or the direction, but all those movies just evoke the same kind of feelings.  So watching this movie just makes you want to have a whole ’80 high school film festival.  Or maybe I just need to lie down for a while.

Okay, much better.

Adventures in Babysitting relates the relatively simple story of a young man and his pursuit of the older woman of his dreams.  Or is that White Palace?  Actually, the story focuses around Chris Parker (Elisabeth Shue, who would go on to Leaving Las Vegas, The Saint, and Hollow Man, and I saw an interview with her on Conan O’Brien where she was talking about being nude in public and stuff, so that’s a different perspective on this movie, to say the least), who spends an evening looking after Brad Anderson (Keith Coogan, who went on to play in Hiding Out, Cousins, Toy Soldiers, Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, In the Army Now, Python, and most recently, according to the IMDb, Our Souls to Keep as "Male Tour Guide"), a freshman at her high school, and his younger sister Sarah (Maia Brewton, who was in Parker Lewis Can't Lose and a bunch of other TV), who is obsessed with Thor.  Of all the superheroes to focus on, Thor is the most confusing.  I mean, many heroes are almost attainable: Batman and Green Arrow, for example, are just guys with a lot of skill and experience; that’s something you can actually attain.  Um, kinda.  Even in the Marvel universe, many heroes just have one power, so all you need is a single mutation, and you’re golden.  That’s doable, right?  Thor is a Norse God.  Not only that, he’s hardly one of the “nicer” of the gods, more given to debauchery than the others, particularly if you go back to the original tales.  How are you going to handle attaining godhood?  Well, I guess it’s the one hero they could get the licensing to for cheap.  Not like anybody was going to take it up, after that awful Hulk movie.  It’s too bad Marvel can’t just foist the Norseman off onto a spin-off project, like Cartoon Network did with Space Ghost.  Look how brilliantly that turned out!

Where was I?

Okay, so Chris is looking after Brad and Sarah.  Then the pervert best friend Daryl Coopersmith (Anthony Rapp, who was also in School Ties, Six Degrees of Separation, Dazed and Confused, and, to cement his apparent screen reputation for bad behavior, Road Trip) comes over (Brad’s best friend, not Chris’; that would be just weird), and adds to the mix.  There are various misadventures, with a finale atop a famous Chicago skyscraper, and then everybody learns a lesson, and everybody goes home.  The end.

But of course, it’s not that simple.  Me?  Leave out details?  You must be kidding.

The initial situation is fairly well-painted.  Popular pretty-girl Chris is getting ready for her romantic date with Window into obsession, two.her popular jock boyfriend, Mike Todwell (Bradley Whitford, who did RoboCop 3, Billy Madison, Masterminds, and Bicentennial Man; he also did such films as Philadelphia and Scent of a Woman, but we'll dwell on his wallowings, instead).  Unfortunately, he cancels; he says he’s got to take care of his little sister, and he might be contagious.  So Chris commiserates with the Best Female Friend, Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller, way before The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag and The Relic), who thinks Mike’s excuse is a crock, but what can you do?  So Chris is free when she gets a request to baby-sit.

Enter our other major characters.  Brad is a freshman in high school, but still young enough not to be entirely trusted with the household by his parents, especially with his younger sister Sarah.  He’s fairly average for a skinny gawky guy all infatuated with Chris (and who wouldn’t be), but she’s not only the round-faced smart-ass cute kid, she’s also insistent on wearing her red cape and her silver helmet with wings, just like Thor.  Except “real.”  This makes her slightly more zany and therefore every so slightly edgier than your average movie brat.  This is a good thing.  The parents are going to an office party in the city, which conveniently removes them from the proceedings.

Okay, so the kids are home with the sitter, and then we meet the Best Male Friend, Daryl.  He’s the token over-hormonal teen, complete with Dad’s Playboy in tow (a plot point has the featured centerfold looking similar to Elisabeth Shue).  Of course, Brad has a bare modicum of mid-teens class, so he won’t let his buddy in.  Hey, I wouldn’t, either.  But then again, I’d more likely be the best friend character.

They’re all just settling in when our heroine, Chris, gets a call from the BFF Brenda, who has tried to run away from home, but run out of money before even getting on a bus.  Idiot kid.  If you’re running away from home, don’t take a freaking cab from the suburbs into the city.  Duh!  And besides, you should really plan it out better, stockpile those resources, have a really big meal before hitting the road.  It helps, believe me.  Anyway, she has to drive her mom’s car into the city and pick the BFF up, but can’t leave the kids behind. This gives the BMF a chance to blackmail his way into the expedition, and we’re off and rolling.

So, they live in one of the western suburbs, Oak Park, which is almost close enough to have El service, but it’s still a half-hour into the city via highway.  Which makes me wonder what the heck route they’re taking!  Judging by the density of traffic, they’re moving at a good clip.  A half-hour on the road at that speed, starting from the middle of Chicago, and I could be in Indiana, or at least deep farmland.  Maybe when they say Oak Park, they mean Oak Park, Wisconsin.  Still, we know for a fact that they do travel to Chicago, so wherever they actually start from, it remains a Chicago movie.

So they’re on the highway.  We get some conversational exposition about how Chris’s boyfriend is a jerk, we get a little perspective on superheroes, and we get the BMF’s Playboy ditched out the window by an over-reacting Brad.  Come on, you goof, it’s just a Playboy.  And then, as our intrepid sitter is telling one of those hook-hand-killer stories, the tire blows out, the first of the complications with Mom’s car.

One of the things I like about this movie is that it shows people, even big-city people, as more or less decent, usually.  They may be scary, or rude, or even criminal, but they’re not looking for trouble.  The guy who stops to help them out, Handsome John Pruitt (John Ford Noonan, a fine and underused actor with big gaps in his filmography both before and after this movie, for some reason) is initially creepy, particularly given the coincidence, but turns out to be quite nice, if a bit crazy-jealous when it comes to his wife.  Hey, nobody ever said city people weren’t edgy, just that they’re not all unfriendly.

Another example: after Mr. Pruitt shows us that crazy-jealous side, our foursome takes cover in a nearby car.  As they go to lock the doors, the doors lock by themselves.  Then Joe Gipp (the very nice Calvin Levels, who hasn't done anything since 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag; I hope he's okay) sits up in the front seat.  He steals the car they’re in, and drives them off to safety.  But it turns out that he’s a nice enough guy, he’s willing to helpSadly, Dustin Hoffman had to shave for his role as Captain Hook, as Robin Williams had a "hairiest man on set" clause in his contract. them out, he just needs to drop off the car they’re in at the chop shop, first.  He’s the most affable car thief in the world, which claim he continues to prove throughout the movie.  Even though Joe is black and the rest of them are white, the movie doesn’t make any issue about that, and again, that’s a mark in its favor.  I think somebody might object to the fact that the car thief is a minority, but he’s one of the most decent people in the film, and he’s hardly the only criminal, either.

In any case, taking the kids on the expedition to the chop shop results in complications, as might be expected.  Of course, any ten-year-old with access to a television and regular broadcast channels would know better than to react the way Brad does to the hardened thugs they meet, but there is a certain fish-out-of-water charm to him.  Goofy kid.  But regardless, the complication has now been complicated, and the kids have gotten themselves noticed.  Worse, they told their names to the mobsters.  Now they not only need to find Mom’s car, get it repaired, and pick up the BFF, they also have to escape the Mob, which they do in a surprisingly tense and effective scene.  However, the mobsters, specifically the Boss, a man apparently by the name of Bleak (John Davis Chandler, if the character ID is correct, who has a pedigree of a bit part in Trancers II, and actual name roles in Carnosaur 2 and Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead, but nothing since 1995, so he, too, might be dead) and his chief henchman, Graydon (Ron Canada, who was Gabriel Jones on Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., the 1998 TV series, remember?  Me neither, but Canada is a reliable actor, as far as he goes) need some notes written in a magazine, which the BMF has pocketed.  So there’s a hot pursuit.  That takes care of much of the movie, actually; the various jams they get into, and the way they manage to get out of them.

Anyway, the route they take to escape from the mobsters initially has them dash through a door and out onto the stage of a blues club, right when blues legend Albert Collins (singer of "I Ain’t Drunk, I’m Just Drinkin’" and many others) is finishing up a song.  Needless to say, the sudden appearance of four white kids on the stage soon quiets the formerly rocking all-African American club.  When they try to excuse themselves, Mr. Collins issues his only non-lyrical line in the movie.  “Nobody leaves this place without singing the blues.”

He means it, too.  This is one of my favorite scenes in this movie, being that I’m a big blues fan, and seeing a song just kind of come together like that always makes me smile.  Of course, it’s another positive point in the racial politics of the movie; although the club full of strangers seemed threatening at first, once the newcomers showed they could ) Such soulful eyes.  Take me, you car thief, take me!get into the spirit of the thing, the club patrons were accepting.  The kids weren’t portrayed as trying to horn in where they weren’t wanted; in fact, the esteemed Mr. Collins wouldn’t let them leave until they’d done some music.  Therefore, the overall effect is that city people, even those of different ethnicity and social habits than yourself, can still be friendly, in opposition of the popular wisdom of stand-offish, hostile city folk.  It’s a good message.  Well, granted, this isn’t New York, so there’s more Midwestern leeway.

Plus, they got to sing the blues in a club in Chicago.  How cool is that?

I don’t mean to harp on the whole race issue, by the way; it’s not like everybody has that in mind all the time.  But I do tend to notice it, particularly because it’s pervasive, persistent, and pernicious in our society as a whole.  Like classism in Europe, racism is a plague in America, and as a responsible, logical, forward-thinking person who happens to be white and male, it’s something I’ve concerned myself with for a long time.  Therefore, I tend to notice messages of tolerance and cooperation when I see them, viewing them as attempts at progress.  Admittedly, I’m not as sensitive to slights against specific types, and I sometimes miss what others will see as racist overtones (though I have noticed in some of my graduate classes that the more militant the individual, the more racist tropes that individual will perceive in a given film, leading me to wonder whether it’s a sensitivity to or a false perception of said tropes, but then we get into criticism and interpretation of creator’s intent, and once we hit critical theories, we’re way off the map), but I do recognize positive steps, and I try not to let the details keep me from seeing the other messages.  Joe may be a car thief, but he’s a good man, and the real criminals are predominantly white.  Ghost Dog may be a black man working for a white man on one level, but on another he’s a samurai living by a code, and his master just happens to be white.  Plus, in Ghost Dog’s case, it was integral to the plot that his master be in the Mafia, and there’s precious few non-whites in the Italian Mafia.  But my main point is, I try to notice when a movie gives off a good multi-racial vibe, and Adventures seems to handle it nicely by making it a non-issue, as in not a problem or a dividing factor, ultimately.

Upon their escape, there is a bit of noticeable camera trickery.  Many movies and shows do that, but now that I live in Chicago, this is the first time I’ve had a chance to notice it.  On the old Early Edition episodes, sometimes the main character would be reading his Chicago Sun-Times, a particular landmark building in the background, and he’d run across the street to alter someone’s fate, in front of another landmark building.  Problem is, the two buildings in reality are on opposite sides of the Loop.  Adventures does this with the Stone Container building, the one in the Chicago skyline near the lake, with the diagonal plane slanting down.  The trickery comes in where no matter where the characters are in the city, no matter how far away they are from the building, they can always see the distinctive diagonal cut.  When you realize how much they’re fudging the image, it makes it a touch difficult to tell where the actual action was shot.  And that’s one of the best parts of seeing a movie shot in your town; figuring out where all the spots were that they filmed.  Heck, out in the Monterey Bay Aquarium, they used to have a whole display on Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which was particularly neat because they really mixed up the interior space, so the impression you get of the layout of the building is completely incorrect.  Which, when you go there, is pretty neat.  At least it was to me.

But the point is, this bit of trickery is particularly noticeable, and it continues throughout the rest of the movie.

It should be noted at this point that the BFF, waiting at the bus station (Chicago has but one, apparently), is experiencing a variety of comic relief situations, mostly involving a Thelma-like losing of her glasses, homeless people, and a “sewer rat” which looks remarkably well-groomed and domesticated.  I would call these) I control your crime, see?  Nobody gets no cars unless I approve, see?  I'm the big cheeze, see?  Yeah. segments Odious Comic Relief, except that they’re not all that Odious as much as they are Bland and predictable.  They could be better, but then again, they could be worse.  As it stands, they merely give us a cut-away subject, so we can provide transitions for the main plot.

Speaking of which, after another narrow escape, it’s time for our intrepid adventurers to enjoy another Chicago institution: the El!  Yes, Chicago’s famed train network, known not only for its elevated tracks but also for the downtown circle which defines the Loop.  The El has been servicing Chicago for around a century, and there are numerous anecdotes and achievements, all of which I will tell you about right now.

Just kidding.  But they do use the El (the Green Line, specifically) to bring up street gangs, getting ready to rumble (once they cross an imaginary street).  Mind you, these are Hollywood gangs, all mixed in ethnicity and out looking for trouble, as opposed to real street gangs, which tend to stick to their own neighborhoods, which in themselves tend to be ethnically unified (for better or worse), leading to a particular monochromatic tendency in the gangs they generate, and I ain’t just talking about colors of bandannas, here, folks.  Mind you, I’m all for ethnic diversity, as I think I’ve pointed out in this review already, but there’s diversity, and there’s realism.  Why make a blues club monochromatic, and make a gang polychromatic, when the odds are good that it would be reversed?  Well, trying to hedge bets against that charge of racism, I’d imagine, but it’s an odd battle to pick.  Maybe I’m inured to it by city living, I don’t know.  It just seems strange to me.  Clark Johnson, Juan Ramirez, shame on both of you.  Well, no, not really, I guess you got a paycheck, Clark got to go on to Homicide: Life on the Street, and Juan was in Backdraft and Chain Reaction.  Not bad at all, guys.

Regardless, there’s something else I want to bring up, and that is that the El is, by and large, a safe place to be.  There are occasional problems, but they always make the news in a big way.  People think, oh, well, if those make the news, then there must be a bunch that don’t.  Nuh-uh; if nothing else, our litigious society makes sure that such things are well-publicized.  Plus, the Chicago Transit Authority takes their security seriously; there are armed guards with attack dogs hired to ride the routes late at night, and when I used to ride the Red Line, I remember seeing the Guardian Angels doing their patrols, as well.  Which is to say, if large armed gangs were to stroll through the cars today like these cinematic toughs do, they’d get opposition so fast it would make their headbands spin.  Oh, yeah, not only are these Hollywood gangs, they’re also ‘80s gangs, which means it’s nothin’ but fashion victims.

So a little mishap with the gangs leads to a trip to the hospital.  Admittedly, I haven’t ridden the Green Line, myself (that and the Yellow Line are the ones I’ve missed, so far), but I’m pretty sure they faked the name of the stop they got off on, just so they could have an easy transition to the next scene.  Which is fairly good, actually, particularly the overworked, laconic, Yakof Smirnoff-looking Dr. Nuhkbane (Sam Moses), who appeared again in Short Circuit 2 and Meet Prince Charming.  Too bad he hasn't been in too much more Helllooooo, Apollo!lately; it’s not like his role was particularly challenging, but he did it well.  Of course, when the role calls for you to be inexpressive and tiredly low-key, it’s hard to fail.

Well, in order to skip out on their medical bills (and you wonder why hospital prices are so high), they duck into a frat party where Eddie Money is playing.  Boy, I knew his stock was low, but playing a frat party?  What kind of agent does he have, anyway?  The BMF is in his element, as he has demonstrated so far the libido of a frat boy with a belly full of beer.  Chris gets chatted up by a charming college guy Dan Lynch (George Newbern, who has done a whole heckuvalot of voice-overs and TV lately, including the voice of Ren on Pirates of Darkwater and the voice of the dinosaur on Theodore Rex; I wonder if he ever got to meet Whoopi), and even little Sarah has a bonding moment with a guy with a helmet.  All Brad gets to do is be jealous.  The goof.  So, Charming Guy takes up a collection so they can get Mom’s Car out of the shop, and even drives them to the place, Dawson’s Garage.  Where is it?  Lower Wacker Drive, previously featured only as a crash site in The Blues Brothers.  Little did you know there were actually businesses there, did you?  Well, quite frankly, I didn’t either.  Most of the sub-surface streets are just parking and concrete; very little in the way of actual commercial real estate down there.  But, apparently, that’s where it is.  Charming Guy offers to stick around, but he’s done enough already.  So he leaves, and the rest of the group goes in.

After a few moments, the owner of the garage makes is entrance; bronzed and muscular, Dawson rides a pneumatic lift to the ground, standing with his ball-peen hammer at the ready, his long blonde locks flowing in the hiss of steam.  Dear God, it’s Vincent D’Onofrio!  Private Gomer Pyle!  Orson Welles!  Edgar!  The Phantom himself!  No, wait, that was Billy Zane.  Anyway, Vincent D'Onofrio!  Who knew he was blonde?  He plays a simple soul, the true heart of the movie.  His magnanimous gestures truly speak to the truth of the urban experience.  However, even in the depths of his outpouring of emotion, he maintains a quiet dignity.  Is it any wonder that he is mistaken for a Norse God?  Is it the least bit surprising that he wins the hearts of children, returning even their helmets to the rightful owners? Admittedly, his parting words don’t make a whole lot of sense, but what can you expect from such a man?  He is perfect in so many ways already, can he not bear a few flaws?  Oh, Dawson, your time upon our screen was so short, yet the lessons you teach us will remain in our hearts forever.  Between you and the Crazy Zombie Baby, the totality of human experience is encompassed on screen.  Look no further, seekers of enlightenment; your moment of zazen is here.

Anyway, where was I?  Well, after getting Mom’s Car, they’re on their way to pick up the BFF, when they recognize the license plates of Mike, Chris’s boyfriend (remember him?).  All this was carefully set up, so we can witness his folly all the more readily.  Mike shows his true colors in front of school skank, Sesame Plexor (Kirsten Kieferle, who I’m sure isn’t as trashy as her character looks in this film, though unfortunately she was in Amy Fisher: My Story), as does Brad, who perhaps shouldn’t be harshed on as much for being a goof.  And then the BMF shows why he’s here.

Of course, while all this is going on, young Sarah is hassled by the Mafia.  Fat lot of good Mnjolor does you now, huh!  (For the uninitiated, Thor’s hammer has a name, which I have no doubt heartily misspelled.)

And now we lead up to the action climax, which takes place high in the aforementioned Stone Container building, involving both the office party where the Anderson parents are mingling, but also the unfinished floor where construction is still ongoing.  What is it about construction that’s so scary?  Is it the hard-hats?Yo, I'm Thor, what's it to ya?

You know, I once had a temp job in a law office in the Stone Container building, way up at the base of that diagonal cut.  The reception area, where I was working, looked right out over the lake, and the whole wall was slanted glass.  It was January, and the snow and ice would accumulate, and then, as the sun rose, it would melt off and slide down.  I could hear the ice coming from a good three stories up.  It slid down, sailed off the edge, and smacked into the wide maintenance walk that was just below the window level of my office.  They wouldn’t have a clear slide off that diagonal to the empty air off the side of the building; falling ice would kill people and damage cars down on Michigan Avenue, and that would not only be not right, it would be litigious.  The point being, you can’t just slide off the side of that building.  Still, not everybody is going to know that, so it remains a useful dramatic threat.

Well, things turn out okay, and the parents barely avoid finding out, thanks to a Herculean effort by the babysitter to make things right.  And then there’s the twist, and then you learn something, and then you go home.  Well, at least, that’s how Crow and Tom Servo would end it.  

In retrospect, this kind of movie seems light and airy on the surface, but it can be very hard to do well.  It’s not so hard to have people run from one complication into another, but the usual questions are “why didn’t they just do X (whatever X is) in the first place?” or “if they’d X’d instead of Y’d, they wouldn’t be in this mess.”  The real juggling act is to 1) have a progression of situations which aren’t entirely unbelievable (you have to fabricate some coincidence to keep the tension high), 2) maintain a sense of urgency throughout the proceedings, yet allow a series of small goals to be achieved throughout the movie so that everything doesn’t all happen at once at the end, and 3) create characters that the audience can care about.  Mind you, most of the movies that make it here can’t accomplish #3, or #2, for that matter.  Or #1.

Chris Columbus doesn't do anything new with his photography, but he elicits a good range of performances from his actors.  It's sad that he went on to do the Home Alone films, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Bicentennial Man, but nobody's perfect.  He's also just done the Harry Potter movie, so we'll see if he still has the chops, so to speak.  Dear God, I see that he's credited as the writer on a film slated for 2002 in the IMDb… Fantastic Four!  Yow.  And he produced Monkeybone.  Hm.

On the other hand, writer David Simkins went on to write and produce for Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Lois & Clark, Charmed, Dark Angel, and FreakyLinks.  Got to admire that pedigree, if you're like me.

So is it a good movie?  Well, Clue is better at doing this sort of thing in general, you know, running around Help!  I'm stuck in a process shot!and getting in and out of situations, but as a teen-oriented “complications ensue” sort of film, it’s quite nice, actually.  Elizabeth Shue is never less than fetching, the little girl is cute without being wretchedly so, and the Goof and the BMF have their moments to shine.  I love the twisted tour of Chicago you get, and I love the varying views of city people that you see, as well.  It’s got its racial politics in a comfortable place; quite frankly, discussions of same don’t occur in the movie, but that’s as it should be, and various minorities are portrayed in varying lights, both good and bad, as they appear in life.  Further, the characters generally know the situation they’re in, and it is indeed dire, but there’s very little actual violence in the film, certainly none of it permanent, and the cursing is, well, relatively minimal for a modern movie of this type.  And I don’t think anybody uses the phrase “meddling kids,” though I could be mistaken.  I do know for a fact that nobody says “I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for you…”

To be honest, Mr. Hasselhoff would have had to be cast in the role of Dawson, and since Mr. D’Onofrio turns in such a subtle and nuanced performance, I could not recommend that he be replaced.  Hence, one Hoff.  I can definitely recommend this movie to a group of young teens, and older people will still enjoy it.  Heck, my in-laws thought it was great!  But then again, we had just recently watched Hexed, so maybe it’s a comparison thing.



These are the times of which to cherish...

- Chicago, Chicago, there’s a song lyric I don’t know… Yes, the good old Windy City really gets a going-through here, as they go from the Near North (those chop-shop warehouses are probably supposed to be along Division or North Avenue or something) through the Loop to the University of Chicago and back again.  Or maybe it’s the South Side.  Hard to tell.  Of course, you can’t get a really good picture of the town, because they mix all the environments up, but that’s okay.

- That ol’ blues music.  If blues be the stuff of life, Albert Collins, play on!  He’s getting weirder-looking as he grows older, but then again, he’s a musician, so they’re held to a different standard of beauty (witness Keith Richards in his heyday).  They use a lot of rhythm and blues and groovy rock in the movie, actually, and it’s much improved because of it.

- You would think that, living out in Los Angeles and all, Hollywood writers would have a better idea of what street gangs and street lingo were like.  I mean, they did Colors, New Jack City, Boyz In The Hood, and all those other street-level dramas, but what, you can’t adapt anything that sounds or looks the least bit realistic for a comedy?  Come on, stretch, people!

- Elizabeth Shue.  ‘Nuff said.

- The whole “Thor” motif with Sarah.  I particularly liked her banging her hammer on the ground in salute.  And here you thought kids these days weren’t religious!

- Keith Coogan as Brad the Goof.  You know, I’d probably go easier on his character if he didn’t remind me of myself when I was his age.  Gah, I was a huge dork.  Still, it’s better than being Daryl, so I guess I can’t complain too much.


-- Copyright © 2001 by E. Mark Mitchell



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