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Blu-ray Review: “Adventures in Babysitting” and “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion”

A couple of 80′s related movies get the the Blu-ray treatment for the first time. Both are female centric comedies that have grown in cult status since their initial releases. First up is 1987′s Adventures in Babysitting, the first film directed by Steven Spielberg protege, Chris Columbus (who would soon become John Hughes’ protege before moving on to direct and produce the Harry Potter films). More important than Columbus, though, is the star of the film, Elizabeth Shue. I can’t be the only guy in his 40′s who had a major crush on Shue when this film came out. Besides having the girl next door good looks and perfect hair, her winning personality made her that one movie star whose pictures adorned my walls when I entered college. 25 years after he first starring role, Shue’s performance is just as fun and engaging as it was back in the day.

In the film she plays a high schooler, Chris,  whose college aged boyfriend (Bradley Whitford, long before The West Wing) cancels their date at the last minute. With nothing to do, she begrudgingly agrees to babysit Brad (Keith Coogan), a 15-year-old pining for Chris, and his bratty little sister (Maia Brewton), who’s a fanatic on the Marvel Comics character, Thor (two decades before the character became a movie sensation!). Look for a young Vincent D’Onofrio as a blond headed muscle man who resembles the God of Thunder. When Chris’ best friend calls from a train station, she loads the kids and their annoying friend (Anthony Rapp) into her mom’s station wagon and head downtown to the rescue. From the moment they leave the house, Chris and the kids go on a series of misadventures, including a stolen car ring, a blues club where Albert Collins makes Chris sing (still a fun scene), a train ride and a fraternity party. Throughout it all, Chris manages to stay in control. As the center of the film, Shue is a joy to watch. Goofy, naive, strong willed and romantic. she’s the epitome of a teenage girl.

For you parents looking for safe films to watch with your budding adolescent children, I recommend this one. It’s fun, has likable characters, and the fashions aren’t too embarrassing. Like any good Spielberg movie, you never sense that the characters are in any real danger, as the kids are generally smarter than the criminals. Adventures in Babysitting was good training ground for Columbus, as he would direct the Home Alone movies soon thereafter.

It’s been fifteen years since the initial release of Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, a sweet comedy about two dim women played by Mira Sorvino (Romy) and Lisa Kudrow (Michelle), who recall thew torment of their high school years as they prepare for their ten year reunion. Neither has become as successful as they’d hoped when they left the small high school in Tucson, AZ, yet they still have each other and a friendship that is honest and loving. Kudrow and Sorvino are both very funny and have such youthful appearances that when the film cuts to flashbacks of the girls in 1987 neither has any trouble pulling it off. In fact, none of the wonderful actors who appear in the movie have any trouble appearing as teenagers and twentysomethings. The cast includes Janeane Garofalo,  Alan Cumming and Camryn Manheim.

Romy and Michelle isn’t as biting as, say, Grosse Pointe Blank, another high school reunion film released in 1997, nor is it as laugh out loud funny. However, the film has a sweet center and a nice theme of loyalty. Kudrow and Sorvino were riding waves of success at the time of the film’s release and both give dedicated, fun performances that make the film worth multiple viewings. The film does some creative time jumping and has nice cinematic techniques for going into and out of flashbacks. Once the girls arrive at their reunion and their plan of trying to convince their old classmates that they’d invented Post-it notes backfires, the film nearly becomes just another underdog story. But then, Rom and Michelle share a dance with Cummings’ character that is worth watching the entire movie. It is one of the funniest damn scenes in the movie and all three actor are so committed to the moment that you will be on the floor.

Both Blu-rays come with limited bonus features. The appeal here is that the movies have finally made it to Blu-ray and have been digitally restored. Fans of both will be happy to see these releases and hopefully a new generation will discover them.