There’s something intangible about Elisabeth Shue that makes her so likable. Maybe it’s her down-to-earth, no frills charm, or the fact that she reminds us of someone we all knew in our lives growing up. While she never got close to the star power of Molly Ringwald in the ’80s, she definitely could have. Ringwald had John Hughes and a more distinct look. Shue didn’t have a starring role until 1987. Ringwald also looked (and was) younger, so she fit into those high school roles better. But at least Shue never got pigeonholed.
In Adventures In Babysitting, Shue does a terrific job as Chris Parker, the babysitter for 8-year-old Sara Anderson after her parents go to a company party for the evening. Sara’s older brother, Brad (Keith Coogan), is in love with Chris and decides to stay home for the night too.
When Chris’ best friend, Brenda, calls her up to say she’s in trouble after she runs away from home, Chris goes with the kids into the city to pick her up. Along the way, they face obstacle after obstacle, all starting with their car getting a flat tire.
What makes Adventures In Babysitting so great is that it’s actually really entertaining and well-put-together. The premise feels like it would be silly and juvenile, but it still feels fresh after 30 years. That’s how it surprises you. You expect it to be one thing–a porous story where not that much is ever really at stake. But then you end up watching something that’s smartly written and never predictable. A film of this nature should have tons of plot holes, but there aren’t many that stand out.
Along with Chris, the characters are really indelible and well-performed. Sara is played by Maia Brewton, who steals the show as the Thor-obsessed spunky 8-year-old who is cute without ever trying to be. And director Chris Columbus (in his directorial debut) always seems to capture her at her absolute best.
The villains are also well-written. The kids steal something that belongs to the owners off a chop shop. The men then spend the rest of the film trying to track down Chris and the kids. Columbus and the writers spend time creating depth and motives with the bad guys as well, when a lesser film would have just made them cookie-cutter archetypes.
Adventures In Babysitting may borrow from films of the past, but its dedication from the filmmakers, as well as its likable and consistent tone is what puts it above all of those.