Dec 10, 2019
Adventures in Babysitting (1987) vs. the 2016 Disney Channel remake
Halloweentown, The Cheetah Girls, High School Musical, Camp Rock, Descendants. Disney Chanel has produced some pretty iconic TV movies, so it’s understandable that for their 100th Disney Channel Original Movie, which premiered on June 24th, they decided to do… a remake of the 1987 comedy Adventures in Babysitting?
I’m not sure if the network executives understood the irony of making their 100th “original” TV movie a remake of a largely successful film, but I guess since kids today have never heard of Elisabeth Shue or even know anything about the 1980s, it counts as an “original” idea.
If you remember the original Adventures in Babysitting, you’re probably curious as to what these young Disney Channel whippersnappers have added to the beloved ’80s film besides updated technology and better hairstyles. Let’s break down the plot elements and see what was then, what was now, and what is definitely better—or worse.
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In the 1987 film, Elisabeth Shue plays Chris Parker, your average teenage girl who just wants to take her babysitting charges into the city to pick up her ditzy friend and then go home, but instead keeps stumbling into a series of misadventures. Writing this, I realize there’s not much to say about Chris Parker; she’s nice, she cares about the kids, she can lip-sync to Crystals songs, and apparently resembles a Playboy model. She’s just kinda generic.
Meanwhile, the 2016 babysitters (that’s right, this movie has two of them) have bigger personalities, albeit cookie-cutter ones. Jenny Parker (Sabrina Carpenter) is a preppy Type-A high schooler, while Lola Perez (Sofia Carson) is an impulsive, free-spirited nineteen year old. The two girls meet when they’re rivals for a prestigious photography internship and accidentally switch phones (there’s that 2016 technology!), and Lola takes a babysitting job meant for Jenny to pay off her parking tickets. When Jenny finds out Lola took the job, she marches over to the house with her charges in tow to switch phones back and put out any proverbial fires Lola may have started.
After the titular adventures in babysitting, Jenny and Lola become friends and learn to loosen/straighten up, respectively. Jenny even withdraws from the photography internship so Lola can get on track to establishing an art career. It’s the standard odd couple pairing, but the fact that both Jenny and Lola actually undergo some sort of character transformation—albeit a predictable one—makes them more entertaining to watch than Chris in the original.
Any babysitter knows that no matter what you do, the success of the job really boils down to how the kids act. Likewise, both movies depend on the kids and the hilarious hijinks they get into to further the plot along.
In 1987, Chris Parker is originally supposed to take care of Sara Anderson (Maia Brewton), a Thor-obsessed fan girl, but Sara’s older brother Brad (Keith Coogan) decides to stay home because he has a crush on Chris and convinces his best friend Darryl Coopersmith (Anthony Rapp) to do the same. Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller) could also count as a babysitting charge, since she’s incapable of existing without adult supervision.
In 2016, Lola is in charge of the Anderson family: preteen Trey (Max Gecowets) who has a crush on Jenny and is oblivious to any other age-appropriate crushes on him, aspiring chef Bobby (Jet Jurgensmeyer), and roller derby fanatic AJ (Madison Horcher). Meanwhile, Jenny is watching the Cooper sisters: angsty Hot Topic preteen Emily (Nikki Hahn) and the precociously fashionable Katy (Mallory James Mahoney), who bears an uncomfortable resemblance to JonBenét Ramsey.
In both versions of the film, each kid is defined by their one major character trait/area of interest, and don’t experience much in the way of serious character development. After a heart to heart with their respective babysitters, Emily does drop the Tickle Me Emo act, and Brad gets over his crush on Chris, but really, these changes primarily demonstrate how Chris, Lola, and Jenny are sensitive enough to know when something is wrong their charges. If you already have a low tolerance for overly cutesy kids, chances are that you’ll prefer the 1987 version, but honestly, it’s a tossup between the two.
Both the 1987 and 2016 films have ridiculously over the top adventures (you can read summaries here and here), but I have to say that the 1987 film has a simpler, though superior plot. The 2016 remake throws in too many plot elements, half of which don’t even pan out. For example, Mrs. Anderson tells Lola that their dog, Lady Marmalade, has an important dog show in the morning and needs to avoid stress. You’d think part of the hijinks would include trying to keep a neurotic dog calm, but the dog is barely on-screen for five minutes. And the plot elements that do last throughout the film are just too cheesy to take seriously. Case in point: Lola, Jenny, and the kids run afoul of some sketchy pawn shop owners when Bobby accidentally lets the illegal Blue Sapphire ferret in the shop loose and Lola takes a picture for posterity. The pawn shop owners spend the whole night tracking down the kids just to get Lola’s camera and delete the picture before they’re arrested for animal smuggling.
For some reason, I’m more likely to buy that a teenage girl and her friends could accidentally discover a car theft ring, meet a kindly frat boy, and get a car repaired for fifty bucks in 1987 than I am to believe a group of kids accidentally angering a couple of pawn shop owners oddly obsessed with ferrets in 2016. I think it’s because anything that took place in 1987, no matter how outlandish, is excusable by the mere fact that it took place in 1987.
The 2016 version isn’t completely terrible; it’s just a tad overstuffed and suffers from the limitations of being a family-friendly Disney Channel movie. I’m sure future generations will enjoy it as a silly screening at slumber parties, but the 1987 film is of a slightly higher quality.
The Babysitting Blues
Arguably one of the most iconic moments of the original Adventures in Babysitting is when Chris and her charges accidentally stumble onto the stage of a blues club, and the band leader (Albert Collins) refuses to let them leave until they sing the blues. Although they’re initially awkward, they get into the spirit of “The Babysitter Blues”and delight the crowd.
The 2016 version decides to “update” the blues club as an open mic night at a rap club. The emcee is so insistent on having the blonde white girl rap on stage that I briefly thought he was T.I., trying to find another Iggy Azalea to promote. Regardless, it should go without saying that Disney Channel actors rapping is a terrible thing to watch, which is why I’m linking the video below.
Hands down, 1987 won this round. I am still haunted at night by the chorus of children chanting, “She ain’t no quitter! She’s the babysitter!” [shudder]
Final Verdict: Should We F*ck With the Babysitter?
In both cases, no. Both are fluffy, enjoyable movies, although the 2016 version is more snarkable (see the “rap battle” above). It’s hard to say which is absolutely better, because let’s face it, neither of these is an Oscar winner. It comes down to a matter of taste and preference. If you like Random Events Plots, blues music, and the occasional swear word, then the 1987 version is for you. If you like a straightforward plot, precocious kids, and an odd couple pairing, then the 2016 remake is more your style.
What do you think? Which version gives you “The Babysitter Blues”?