Sony // 1995 // 94 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // November 21st, 2003
Friends 4 Ever.
Kristy and her friends are the most popular babysitters in the small Northern town of Stoneybrook. They have even formed a quasi-business, known as The Babysitters Club, to maximize their businesses potential and coordinate their busy schedules. As summer rapidly approaches, the girls hit upon a wonderful idea: they will open a day camp for kids and make even more money. Problem is the girls are surrounded by a lot of other distractions that may keep the entire experience from being a success. The new next-door neighbor, Mrs. Haberman, doesn't particularly care for the noise produced by dozens of brats. Claudia is flunking her all-important science class and needs help with her studies. Stacey is smitten and keeps trying to catch the eye of a hunky Swiss visitor who's much older than she. And all the while, spoiled rich brat Mallory wants to undermine the Club at every possible turn. When Kristy's time is taken up with a secret she must keep from the rest of the group, camaraderie and compassion are tested. It will take a strong bond of friendship and a little luck, to keep the members of The Babysitters Club together before fall fills the air.
The Babysitters Club is a decent little movie that constantly fights with itself, like mortal moviemaking enemies, for ultimate cinematic supremacy over the way in which it tells its tale. On the dark side are the formulaic trappings of most kid friendship flicks, with their antagonist neighbors, snotty snob nemesis, and overly feminized boy-toy heartthrobs. Like a mad motion picture mongoose, these tired traits drag the sunny snake of a storyline down into the pit of potential despair to taint its true heart. Then, like a superhero champion for all that is just and fair in family friendly entertainment, smart writing, excellent performances, and a real sense of unity and friendship amongst the young cast defeats the doldrums of dumb and, suddenly, Moriarity is conquered and Holmes heads back to Baker Street for a snifter and a shot. The Babysitters Club is indeed a war, one that makes the final verdict on who wins the cinematic high ground a very close call. For every scene that meanders over into cliché territory, be it the standard goofy guy who really wants to impress the pretty girl with his awkward antics routine to the best friend's flummoxed by a secret that isolates them from the rest of the brood, the script battles back to turn these potential problems into insignificant serrations in an otherwise solid, sweet story. Based on the hugely successful series of young adult book titles, The Babysitters Club has a built-in audience just waiting to see their favorite characters visualized on the big screen. Some may be disappointed, but others will find this solid, if occasionally syrupy film enjoyable.
This is a movie that really mixes its metaphors and its tone to cover all the emotional bases, from broad comedy to intense human emotion. It wants to make sure not to miss once single ounce of interpersonal or social significance/interaction between the characters while it occasionally falls into archetypal antics. Hoping to encompass all of childhood in one cinematic sweep, the main issue with The Babysitters Club is its wide-open focus. Whenever you have nine main characters and five major storylines vying for attention within one film, something's going to go underdeveloped. But luckily, this movie finds ways to resolve its shortcomings without making you feel like you're being cheated (manipulated, perhaps). The real reason that The Babysitters Club works is because it constantly defies the conventions that occasionally help move its plot along to say something profound about that time of eternal possibilities: young adulthood. It makes the clever move of never once talking down to or over the heads of its intended audience. It's intriguing that the secret which begins to divide the club is not some stupid crush or forgotten birthday/date but a returning deadbeat dad who wants his presence kept secret to further avoid the shame of his irresponsibility. In the single/step parent state of our current society, this rings with far more truth than a missed deadline or some convoluted case of mistaken identity. And most pre-pubescent films give their cast either arch one-liners or hyper-intelligent twaddle to talk about when they aren't musical montaging their way through some stupid subplot. But the dialogue in The Babysitters Club sounds honest and true. Yes, it occasionally falls back on the fallacies of familiarity to keep the forward momentum going, but more times than not, The Babysitters Club is an imperfect, but wholly wholesome slice of endearing entertainment.
In keeping with the direct to diaper cases marketing of this product, Columbia TriStar has released this film in a less than stellar full screen package. Not that The Babysitters Club is some sort of miracle of framing and/or composition. The 1.33:1 image is perfectly fine, without major flaws or defects and since this has all the ear-markings of "made for television" all over it, seeing it in this fashion is not completely uncalled for. The aural presentation is equally underwhelming. Aside from the brief humor to be found in listening to the girls speak French (the optional soundtrack), the Dolby Digital Stereo is fairly routine. Oddly, this is a bare bones disc without a single link to anything associated with the film (the cast, crew, or literary source material) or any other Columbia TriStar product. While it would have been nice to showcase the young talent in the film (Sissy Spacek's daughter Schuyler Fisk plays the lead role of Kristy and Rachel Leigh Cook has definitely gone on to bigger, if not necessarily better things) or offer some insight into the immense popularity of the books (heck, they were even referenced in a classic Simpsons episode), all we get here is the film.
As stated before, it's a mixed mostly toward the amusing bag of good and bad points. The Babysitters Club would have been a first-rate film had they simply scuttled the stupid story points and let the characters interact and speak to each other. But that's apparently not what the wee ones want. So if you can survive moments of slow slapstick and pre-teen tantrums, you will really like the core of this film. Inside the same old shell is a very tender, touching tale.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13