'Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead' a lifeless attempt at 'Home Alone'

On movies

June 07, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

If you're willing to settle for one third of a film, ''Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead'' might do.

For the first hour or so, the movie is a largely mirthless affair in which a woman leaves her five children in the care of an aged baby-sitter.

When the baby-sitter dies, the kids decide they will keep her demise a secret. They'll make it on their own, they figure. They want the freedom.

The oldest of the five is a 17-year old girl who, when the kids can't find the money left in the baby-sitter's care, decides she will go to work. She will support all of them, she says.

Well, why not? If you can believe that a woman would go off for two months and leave her five kids in the care of a sitter with a cane, you can believe anything.

She does well with the money. She manages to support her brothers and sisters, most of whom behave as though they are

TC part of the Manson family. One, a 10-year old girl, talks tough, a younger boy steals huge sums of money from his sister, and the oldest boy is continually entertaining his friends who are either boozed up or smoking dope.

Most of these kids are, in short, a parent's nightmare, the kind of children you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy, and all this is supposed to be entertaining. It isn't.

No one, young or old, was laughing at an advance screening recently, until the film was two-thirds spent.

''Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's dead'' plays for a the most part like a bad dream, but it might serve a purpose. Parents might view the film and thank Heaven that these are not their kids.

During the last 25 minutes or so, the kids do straighten up. If you can believe everything else, you can believe this, too. When they do reform, they stage a fashion show in the back yard, complete with teen-age models.

Don't ask why. Don't ask how. Just be glad that things have improved.

''Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead'' wants to play to the ''Home Alone'' audience, but they don't begin to reach that level until the movie is almost finished.

The film is showing at local theaters. Christina Applegate (''Married...With Children'') is the oldest daughter, Keith Coogan her doper brother, Christopher Pettiet, Danielle Harris and Robert Hy Gorman are the other kids. Joanna Cassidy is the woman for whom Sue Ellen (Applegate) goes to work, and Josh Charles, son of Sun columnist Laura Charles, is the young man who courts the oldest girl.

''Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead'' * Five children, left in the care of a baby-sitter, decide they will keep it to themselves when the woman dies.

CAST: Christina Applegate, Joanna Cassidy, John Getz, Josh Charles, Keith Coogan, Concetta Tomei

DIRECTOR: Stephen Herek

RATING: PG-13 (language, sex)

) RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

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