Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitters Dead is one of the best movies ever, please don’t be misled by the title. Sure, if you like super serious movies where you get knocked over the head by meaning and intense emotion and all that, then fine, you might not agree, but if you were a girl who was growing up in the 90s, you probably love this film—and there’s no shame in that, only pride!
DTMTBD is like Working Girl for the 90s teen set, only kind of better because the fashion is way more fun. When Sue Ellen (or “Swell” for short) Crandell’s mom decides to jet off to Australia with her new boyfriend leaving her five children alone for the summer, at first they think they’re going to have the time of their lives. So it comes as quite a surprise when an old woman shows up at the door proclaiming to be their babysitter. It’s even more of a surprise when she drops dead leaving the kids with no money.
Sue Ellen soon realizes that, being the oldest, she’s in charge of her ramshackle gang of siblings for the rest of the summer. She and her burn-out brother Kenny (Keith Coogan) toss a frozen pizza to decide who will get a job and who will stay home with the kids. Sue Ellen loses the pizza toss, and soon finds herself cleaning fat vats at fast food joint Clown Dog. She quits pretty quickly, but not before meeting Brian (Josh Charles), a cute delivery-guy.
As a result of copying her resume straight from a book, Sue Ellen lands a coveted position as Executive Administrative Assistant at General Apparel West, making an enemy of the original candidate for the position, bitchy receptionist Carolyn (Jayne Brook).
Luckily Sue Ellen has the best boss ever, Rose (Joanna Cassidy) who not only can’t stand Carolyn but also gives us viewers the delightful phrase “I’m right on top of that Rose”, which to this day I still hear in my head when given an important task at work. Unfortunately 17-year-old Sue Ellen is in a bit over her head and things soon unravel, but not before an amazing work montage, beach romance, and some truly amazing 90s fashion.
DTMTBD has stuck around and remained in our hearts because it’s atypical for a teen movie. I love that Sue Ellen has a power-suit wearing female boss who is awesome and supportive instead of evil. It’s also great that while she gives herself her own “business” makeover, her younger brother is really the one who ends up going through a typical physical transformation—haircut, clean clothes, etc.
Swell was a fashion icon for me in my formative years, I still marvel at how she made harem pants and over-sized blazers look so effortlessly hip. Her awesome early 90s friends are also an inspiration, they remind me of the babysitters I had as a kid who I though were just the coolest. girls. ever. Side ponytails, teased hair, chunky jewelry, as far as I’m concerned they still look damn amazing.
Don’t be betrayed by the name, if for some reason you’ve never had the delight of watching DTMTBD, give it a try. It’s great this time of year if you’re working your butt off in business wear and feeling bitter about the tourists and day-trippers that surround you on your commute (I speak from very strong personal experience). It’s worth it alone to watch for the fashion show at the end, but really, whether she is wearing doc martens or shoulder-pads, Christina Applegate is just so damn wonderful. So crank up the AC, microwave some popcorn, and revisit a teen movie with style and charm that far exceed its title.
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