'Adventures in Babysitting': TV Review

Courtesy of Disney Channel
The adventure is brand-new, but the parents remain just as clueless.
6/24/2016

To mark Disney Channel's 100th movie, the network has a new spin on its 1987 favorite.

Continuing with the everything-old-is-new-again renaissance currently pervading pop culture, the Disney Channel takes on Adventures in Babysitting for its 100th movie outing.

Inspired by the 1987 film of the same name, the quasi-remake focuses on Jenny Parker (Sabrina Carpenter), a responsible, over-achieving teenager, and Lola Perez (Sofia Carson), her care-free, rule-breaking counterpart. The two meet not-so-cute when both are vying for an exclusive photography internship and, in a Freaky Friday occurrence, accidently switch phones.

Wanting to make some money, Lola pretends to be a friend of Jenny’s and lands a babysitting gig. From the moment high-powered mom Helen Anderson (Gillian Vigman) tells Lola that the stove is off-limits, that the family dog mustn't be stressed, that the kitchen needs to be cleaned and could Lola be a love and do some laundry, it's easy to guess what happens next.

Middle son Bobby (Jet Jurgensmeyer) promptly sets the kitchen on fire, the washing machine overflows and the dog ends up covered in tomato sauce. When Trey (Max Gecowets) sneaks out to attend a concert in the big city, Jenny, Lola and their respective charges join forces to find him and get everyone home safely.

Amid all the shenanigans, the gang crosses paths with some comically nefarious characters that seem straight out of Home Alone. These bumbling criminals are trying to sell a rare sapphire ferret (which looks like a common ferret painted purple).

The children, for the most part, are reduced to one-note descriptions. Bobby loves to cook. Katy (Mallory James Mahoney) is a seven-year-old fashion diva. Shy Emily (Nikki Hahn) rebels by dying her hair green and getting a henna tattoo. She has a crush on Trey, who has yet to notice her. AJ (Madison Horcher) adores roller derbies and spends the movie in full attire (a nice callback to the Thor helmet worn by the youngest child in the original).

While this version features two babysitters instead of one, there are lots of fun references to the original movie, from the almost verbatim quotes (“Take care of our babies,” “I’ll guard them with my life,” etc.) to an homage to one of the earlier film’s most memorable scenes: While the pic's star Elisabeth Shue sang in a blues club, Jenny and Lola suddenly find themselves on stage rapping. It’s a goofy scene, but the hook (“She ain’t no quitter. She’s the babysitter”) is a catchy earworm that's still rattling around in my head.

The movie exists in an upper-class world where children borrow their mother’s “one of a kind” diamond earrings and parents worry about their freshly detailed SUV. As so often happens in tween TV,  the adults are either clueless or really, really clueless. When just-wants-a-night-out mom Donna (Gabrielle Miller) gets a call from her daughter Emily that Jenny has stolen the Andersons’ car and they are all at the police station, Donna is convinced Emily is just pulling a prank.

Most moms would completely freak out after hearing a panicked call from their child, but Donna is mad at her husband Barry (Kevin O’Grady) for wanting to leave the gala they’re attending in Helen’s honor. Neither Donna nor Barry thinks to call home or Jenny’s cellphone. When they do visit the police station the officers mock them. “We don’t usually lock up the children until after midnight,” one of the cops cackles. Because that's how police officers act when concerned parents come to them?

Like the old Hollywood studio system, the Disney Channel loves to employ its own. Carpenter stars in Girl Meets World, and Carson headlined the hugely popular The Descendants. The actresses share an easy rapport, and perhaps this will be the start of many projects the two likeable stars do together.

A part of me loves Adventures in Babysitting because it celebrates young women being supportive of each other, and the idea that friendship can blossom between polar opposites. Plus it's nice G-rated fun. In the oversexualized world we live in, it’s a relief to have the young couples in the movie do little more than smile sweetly at one another.

But it’s also a movie that includes stealing as a solution to a big problem, and lying to your utterly oblivious, bordering-on-irresponsible parents. This adventure might not be perfect, but, as any parent knows, few babysitters are.

Cast: Sabrina Carpenter, Sofia Carson, Nikki Hahn, Mallory James Mahoney, Max Gecowet, Jet Jurgensmeyer, Madison Horcher, Kevin Quinn
Director: John Schultz
Executive producer: Michelle Manning

Premieres: Friday, 8 p.m. ET/PT (Disney Channel)

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