Hollywood Movies

‘Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead’ Review: Remake Without a Reason

April 10, 20244 Mins Read

If there were office pools for potential remakes of Hollywood films, it’s unlikely that Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead would have been high on anyone’s lists. After all, this 1991 black comedy starring Christina Applegate was hardly a critical or box-office sensation, and its reputation hasn’t exactly improved with time. On the other hand, it was a nearly ubiquitous presence on HBO for many years, and you couldn’t walk into a Blockbuster without seeing promotional materials for it prominently displayed. So the new version featuring a mostly Black cast also has its share of nostalgia value, which it smartly acknowledges via some callbacks to the original.

Otherwise, this version directed by Wade Allain-Marcus, which includes Tyra Banks among its executive producers (the actress/model was also originally going to appear in it), doesn’t do much to enhance the underwhelming storyline. It hews fairly close to the original, changing various details rather than providing a total overhaul, and seems better suited for its eventual streaming than theatrical release.

Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead

The Bottom Line

Not even fans of the original will find much to get excited about.

Release date: Friday, April 12
Cast: Simone Joy Jones, Nicole Richie, June Squibb, Donielle Tremaine Hensley, Jermain Fowler, Patricia “Ms. Pat” Williams, Miles Fowler, Iantha Richardson, Gus Kenworthy, Tyriq Withers
Director: Wade Allain-Marcus
Screenwriter: Chuck Hayward

Rated R,
1 hour 39 minutes

Once again, the story revolves around what happens when a harried mom (comedian Patricia “Ms. Pat” Williams) unexpectedly leaves town for a two-month immersive retreat in Thailand after having a meltdown at work. This disappoints her 17-year-old daughter Tanya (Simone Joy Jones, Peacock’s Bel-Air), who had been planning to go to Europe with friends but now is stuck babysitting her younger siblings.

Her mother had hired a babysitter in the form of the elderly Mrs. Sturak (national treasure June Squibb). But the seemingly sweet old woman, who shows up bearing a Bible, reveals a darker streak. As soon as the mother leaves, she fires a starter pistol and announces to the frightened children, “I watch Madea movies, I know how to discipline you little N-words.”

It’s no spoiler to reveal what happens next, as it’s indicated in the title. Mrs. Sturak drops dead, with the terrified brood first hiding her in a refrigerator when a police officer unexpectedly shows up. After he leaves, they debate what to do with the body, with one of them suggesting that they drop it off at a funeral home with a note. “It’s not 1991, use your head,” another chastises, in a cute nod to the earlier film. Instead, they put her in a car and submerge it in a lake, all of this occurring before the opening credits some 20 minutes in.

To score some money to keep them afloat, Tanya pretends to be much older and applies for a job at a fashion design firm headed by Rose (Nicole Richie), who hires her as her executive assistant much to the chagrin of Caroline (Iantha Richardson), a receptionist who had been angling for the job herself. Meanwhile, Tanya begins a tentative romance with Bryan (Miles Fowler), a handsome young architect whom she met while working as a rideshare driver.

Mildly involving plot complications ensue, including Tanya spotting Rose’s boyfriend making out with a younger woman; her siblings maxing out a credit card to splurge on such home improvements as a skateboard ramp; and Caroline becoming increasingly suspicious of the new hire. Along the way, the screenplay by Chuck Hayward does feature some amusing lines, as when Tanya, hearing that the firm’s finances are in jeopardy, announces, “I need this job! I don’t have the booty for OnlyFans!”

Neither the romantic nor work subplots amount to much, with the latter never approaching the Devil Wears Prada level it might have gone for (Richie’s boss, although sharp-edged at times, doesn’t begin to approach Miranda Priestly levels). After its darkly comic set-up, the mild proceedings seem generally undercooked, lacking the subversiveness that could have given the remake a reason for being. It coasts along mainly on the charms of Jones, who displays considerable comic chops as the beleaguered Tanya.

Fans of the 1991 version will get a kick out of the late-in-the-film cameo by one of that movie’s leading players. But then again, anyone who truly enjoyed the original is probably by now too mature to want to relive the experience.

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