Keith Coogan

Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (1991, Stephen Herek)

Wait, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead made money? It didn’t make a lot of money, but it probably turned a profit.

The movie’s a star vehicle for Christina Applegate, who clearly doesn’t deserve one. Her performance is laughably awful and amateurish; it’s as though the filmmakers realized she wasn’t likable and just went ahead anyway. Every frame of her performance gives way to a far worse one.

The plot–the titular Babysitter angle quickly gives way to teenage Applegate lying her way into a job–requires a reasonable performance from the lead. Between Applegate and director Herek’s incompetence, it’s not happening here.

There’s a complete disconnect with reality in Babysitter, whether it’s Concetta Tomei being believable as having five kids or Keith Coogan’s stoner being younger than sister Applegate. Herek and the screenwriters also coat over the mean-spirited, reprehensible natural of the characters. Whether it’s Tomei leaving her kids with a babysitter without references, the kids disposing of the body and covering up the death and just the movie’s general apathy.

The audience is supposed to like Applegate because she meets a cute boy (Josh Charles, who’s clearly leagues ahead talent-wise than his costars) and changes outfits and hairstyles every scene.

Poor Joanna Cassidy shows up and humiliates herself as Applegate’s boss.

Between Herek’s unbelievably lousy direction and David Newman’s awful score, the movie doesn’t even have any passable technical qualities.

It’s artistically tragic prints of Babysitter exist. I wish I could forget every millisecond of it.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Stephen Herek; written by Neil Landau and Tara Ison; director of photography, Tim Suhrstedt; edited by Larry Bock; music by David Newman; production designer, Stephen Marsh; produced by Robert F. Newmyer, Julia Phillips, Brian Reilly and Jeffrey Silver; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Christina Applegate (Sue Ellen Crandell), Joanna Cassidy (Rose Lindsey), John Getz (Gus), Josh Charles (Bryan), Keith Coogan (Kenny Crandell), Concetta Tomei (Mom), David Duchovny (Bruce), Kimmy Robertson (Cathy), Jayne Brook (Carolyn), Eda Reiss Merin (Mrs. Sturak), Robert Hy Gorman (Walter Crandell), Danielle Harris (Melissa Crandell) and Christopher Pettiet (Zach Crandell).


Toy Soldiers (1991, Daniel Petrie Jr.)

While Petrie’s a decent director, it’d probably be hard to screw up Toy Soldiers. The movie mostly relies on Sean Astin, who’s more than capable of carrying it, so long as one likes Astin.

So, if you like Astin and think Keith Coogan’s funny… it works. I’m not sure how one’s supposed to respond to Wil Wheaton. Probably like him. Though when Wheaton tries to do an Italian accent, it’s problematic to say the least.

The supporting cast is very solid–Mason Adams, Denholm Elliot, Andrew Divoff.

Robert Folk’s musical score is excellent, which his filmography doesn’t suggest.

It’s difficult to talk about the film as it’s just Die Hard at a prep school. It’s one of the first “Die Hard at” pictures, but Astin has sidekicks so it’s not exact.

The bad guys are South Americans who don’t approve of Hispanic Americans assimilating into white culture, which is interesting. Not sure if Koepp and Petrie came up with that detail themselves or if it’s in the novel. The Mafia and the U.S. Army are the good guys here (the FBI are sort of good guys).

After Astin, the film rests on Lou Gossett. Gossett’s perfect here. This film really showcases his ability–even though he’s a character actor with a persona, he adapts it for any role. It works beautifully here as the tough… but caring dean. Gossett and Elliot only have one scene, but it’s great.

Toy Soldiers is a competent film. It’s just not really any good.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Daniel Petrie Jr.; screenplay by Petrie and David Koepp, based on the novel by William P. Kennedy; director of photography, Thomas Burstyn; edited by Michael Kahn; music by Robert Folk; production designer, Chester Kaczenski; produced by Jack E. Freedman and Wayne S. Williams; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Sean Astin (William ‘Billy’ Tepper), Wil Wheaton (Joseph ‘Joey’ Trotta), Keith Coogan (Jonathan ‘Snuffy’ Bradberry), Andrew Divoff (Luis Cali), R. Lee Ermey (General Kramer), Mason Adams (FBI Dep. Asst. Dir. Otis Brown), Denholm Elliott (Dr. Robert Gould – Headmaster), George Perez (Ricardo Montoya), T.E. Russell (Henry ‘Hank’ Giles III), Shawn Phelan (Derek ‘Yogurt’), Michael Champion (Jack Thorpe) and Louis Gossett Jr. (Dean Edward Parker).


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