“Don’t fuck with the babysitter.” There were many occasions during my short stint as a teenage babysitter when I wanted to say this line from Adventures in Babysitting (1987) — usually to one of the kids I was watching. It might be the most famous line from a movie about babysitting, after “Have you checked the children?” from When a Stranger Calls (1979). Of course, I haven’t seen every movie about babysitting, so I might be totally full of crap.
If you’ve never seen Adventures in Babysitting, you really should. It stars Elisabeth Shue as Chris Parker, a high school senior from the Chicago suburbs whose boyfriend cancels a big anniversary date with her, leaving her free to babysit for the Anderson kids, whose parents are going to a party in the city. Shortly after Chris arrives at the Andersons’ house, her best friend, Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller), calls and says that she’s run away from home and needs Chris to come get her at the bus station — in downtown Chicago.
So Chris packs up her charges — teenager Brad (Keith Coogan) and his younger, Thor-obsessed sister, Sarah (Maia Brewton), along with Brad’s obnoxious friend Darryl (Anthony Rapp, before he became famous as Mark in the Broadway hit Rent) — and they head off to the city to rescue Brenda. The night is filled with craziness, including a tire blowout on the interstate, a shootout involving the tow-truck driver who picks them up, an unwanted visit to a chop shop, an accidental performance at a blues club (with legendary bluesman Albert Collins, no less), a confrontation with two gangs on the el, a trip to the emergency room, and a stop at a frat party, all while being chased through the city by the greaseballs who run the chop shop.
This is such a fun film, and one of my favorites from the 1980s. It’s perfectly cast, with the city of Chicago playing one of the best roles. There’s the added bonus of my two favorite actors having small parts: Vincent D’Onofrio (listed in the film’s credits as Vincent Phillip D’Onofrio), in one of his first film roles, as Dawson, the owner of the garage where Chris’s car gets fixed, and Bradley Whitford (of The West Wing fame) as Chris’s jerk boyfriend, Mike.
You might not expect a movie about a babysitter to boast a soundtrack full of blues, R&B, and rock, but this one does. The music plays just as important a role in the film as the setting of Chicago, from Chris’s lip-synched performance of the Crystals’ “Then He Kissed Me” at the beginning of the film to her adrenaline-fueled race to get home with the kids before their parents arrive, backed by Edwin Starr’s “Twenty-Five Miles.” My personal favorite scenes in the film happen in the blues club that Chris and the kids stumble into while running from the chop shop guys. “Nobody leaves this place without singing the blues.” How can you not love that? I just hope that the sequel or remake or whatever they’re calling the craptacular project known as Further Adventures in Babysitting, which is rumored to star Miley Cyrus and Raven-SymonÃ©, doesn’t try to re-create that scene, because it’ll probably fail.
I found almost everything from the soundtrack, which is long out of print. Some lovely person put two of the tracks I couldn’t find — “Just Can’t Stop” by Percy Sledge and “Expressway to Your Heart” by Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes — up on YouTube, so I included them below. The third track I couldn’t find is “Albert’s Smokin’ Ice” by Albert Collins. If you have any of these in MP3 form, please share if you’re so inclined.
The Crystals – Then He Kissed Me
Edwin Starr – Twenty-Five Miles
Iggy Pop – Real Wild Child
Koko Taylor – Evil
Junior Walker – What Does It Take (To Win Your Love?)
Muddy Waters – The Blues Had a Baby and They Named It Rock & Roll
Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes – Future in Your Eyes
The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter
Sam Cooke – Bring It On Home to Me
Albert Collins (feat. Elisabeth Shue, Keith Coogan, Anthony Rapp, and Maia Brewton) – Babysitting Blues (You also need to watch the scene from the film. I wonder if Anthony Rapp ever imagined himself starring in a Broadway show after this performance.)
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Percy Sledge, “Just Can’t Stop”
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Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, “Expressway to Your Heart”
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