Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (2024)

Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead Review

Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead

Summary: Tanya was looking forward to her summer until her mom went on a last-minute trip and the substitute babysitter got died.

I didn’t think I’d ever find myself thinking about Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, even a couple years ago. Here’s the thing. It’s not a good movie. At all. Yes, I watched it over and over again. Look. It was 1991. I was a 12-year-old boy and Christina Applegate was in it. If you’re not of a certain age, you might not understand what a chokehold Kelly Bundy had on all of us. But even without watching it again this time, I know that this is one I don’t need to see again. The original film, and its remake of the same name which is really just another story of missed opportunities stars Applegate as Sue Ellen “Swell” Crandell, an angsty teenaged girl who wants nothing more than to spend her summer hanging out with her friends at the pool but has her plans cancelled after her mother goes on vacation and leaves her with an elderly babysitter who dies.

Dark jokes should write themselves when you have a group of children who can do whatever they want because there’s no adult supervision around because the adult died. And yet here we are with “Don’t Tell Mom,” in which a trio of writers (Chuck Hayward, Neil Landau and Tara Ison) seem mainly to miss this point too often for it to be unintentional or accidental though if it makes you feel any better about them or their choices here, so did the writers of the original film, whose mistakes were different but still similar ones.

The original focused on star power this one focuses more on message material than dark humour or any humour whatsoever beyond basic rom-com stuff between Joy-Jones’ Tanya and Fowler’s Bryan (whom she meets while working her one and only ride-share gig), which is fine but could exist in any movie. It feels like they know it, too. The credits don’t roll until after the babysitter’s dead and the body has been disposed of. (Though if Hereditary taught us anything, it’s that at least one of these kids has the makings of a serial killer.) It feels like the script just needed to get this out of the way so it could get to the nice, mostly charming story it wanted to tell.

If that’s what happened or why they did this, I’m not sure. The original film doesn’t need protecting, obviously, but also it’s hard to believe they’re selling tickets (or streaming dollars) based on a moderately known 30-year-old movie or should I say “film.” Luckily for all involved parties past and present though, however many people who do end up watching this version won’t have seen the first iteration because there’s no possible way anyone who worked on either film would want them back-to-back on their respective resumés.

The cast here is genuinely great though. They seem to know exactly how much time to spend with each child in Tanya’s family older sister Tanya herself played by Simone Joy-Jones is nearly pitch perfect when allowed by the meandering script and has easy chemistry especially with younger brother Kenny (Donielle T. Hansley Jr.) and love interest Bryan (whom she meets while working her one and only ride-share gig) played by Miles Fowler. And yet again they struggle once we shift focus from their home life to her employment at a fashion company yes another direct nod to the original film but also even more dated than that script knows or wants it to be honest about itself being; you can attempt all you want to dance around this fact but you cast Nicole Ritchie as “boss lady” Rose and that character needs some frostiness and some energy, and Ritchie provides neither. Her performance fluctuates between the “cool mom” from Mean Girls and a teenager trying to act like an adult which is not even in the same field as what Joy-Jones is doing here.

Positive lessons are taught by this movie. And it is really clever how they do that with the main cast being black. They make sure to say that these children should never tell anyone that their white nanny (June Squibb, having a good time even if no one else is) died in their house. The sibling debate of what constitutes “real work” spoke to me on a personal level. 

The only thing that does work here is romance. Teen romances are hard. We could throw around a bunch of examples, but who has the time? Joy-Jones and Fowler need to star in a Nicholas Sparks style love story, like yesterday. You can tell they’re perfect for each other from the minute they share screen time together. Everything else just gets in the way of that and it’s honestly disrespectful.

Speaking of getting in the way though, I think there are one too many connections for viewers to have to believe here. There were mean coworkers for Tanya to deal with in the original and they try and make them more human here which wasn’t necessary at all because there’s nothing wrong with an antagonist at work we don’t need some deep backstory on why they’re mean and one of them has some sort of connection with another character which doesn’t really affect anything but at this point just feels like overkill and cheapens whatever kind of punch this ending could’ve even had.

Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead is a forgettable movie about a charming family unit. It would be nice if it weren’t so weighed down by references to the original, unnecessary additions to its already pretty convoluted plot, and at least one actor who was seriously miscast.

Watch Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead For Free On Gomovies.

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