DVD Review: 'The Babysitters' as bad as everyone says (ONLINE EXCLUSIVE)
Shh.... Do you hear that? It's Sam Waterston, Dateline's Chris Hansen and a nation of parents -- nay, anyone with a sliver of decency -- collectively shaking their heads at the premise of "The Babysitters." After a babysitting gig, Shirley Lyner ...
Shh.... Do you hear that?
It's Sam Waterston, Dateline's Chris Hansen and a nation of parents -- nay, anyone with a sliver of decency -- collectively shaking their heads at the premise of "The Babysitters."
After a babysitting gig, Shirley Lyner (played by Katherine Waterston) falls for the kids' dad (John Leguizamo) after he takes her out for a bite to eat before dropping her off. Problem is, she's 16 and, oh yeah, he's still married. No matter, we're in writer/director David Ross' head now, and a simple kind gesture from a lonely middle-aged man automatically equates to an illicit affair worthy of "To Catch a Predator" chat room transcripts.
But I digress (for now). On with the plot: Soon enough, after Shirley's friends -- and some enemies too, for that matter -- find out she's raking in $200 a gig, they want in on the action.
From there on out, the film inexplicably switches gears from a failed attempt at recreating the masterpiece of taboo lust and awkward midlife crises that was "American Beauty" to, as LA Weekly expertly pegged it, a "female inversion of 'Risky Business.'"
Shirley becomes the girls' pimp, taking a 20 percent cut each time one of her peers is taken advantage of by a pervy old man, and uses her oh-so-OCD tendencies (a subplot that strangely disappears around the film's halfway point) to fill her iCalendar plum full of all tomorrow's statutory rape cases.
But, unlike that aforementioned 1983 Tom Cruise starmaker, "The Babysitters" isn't really that funny. Worse yet, I don't even know if it's supposed to be -- that's how convoluted this "film" is.
Actually, above all else, it's just awkward. Not because I was watching it with my wife -- guys, this is one giant step back for our gender -- but because I'm pretty sure even Ross couldn't tell you what was going on half the time.
It's like the film just kind of got away from him.
"The Babysitters" starts out, earnestly enough, building a case against the wife of Shirley's "suitor" (played to perfection by Cynthia Nixon, aka Miranda on "Sex and the City"). This is actually pretty routine in films about affairs -- you know, the whole "Ahh, you're no fun anymore" bit, or ... you get the point -- so I have no qualms with Ross' performance here. It's when, after just one awkward late-night make-out session with Leguizamo's character, this straight-laced (and, when it's convenient for the filmmaker, obsessive-compulsive) highschooler decides to give up her virginity and become an underage prostitute that this film completely derails.
No, I'm sorry, that honor should probably go to the let's-give-underage-girls-ecstasy party hosted by the "Johns" at a remote cabin. Yeah, that scene was actually worse than the one in which Shirley and her gal pal -- with the aid of Leguizamo's befuddled character -- go on an after-hours vandalism rampage at their school, taking out their frustration on the rival babysitters-as-prostitutes gang.
Don't ask, because, as you can probably already tell, you'll know to stay clear of "The Babysitters" when you're watching Cinemax at 3 a.m. in a seedy motel room.
"The Babysitters" is available now. DVD bonus features include a making-of featurette, Ross and Waterston's running commentary and the film's "red band" theatrical trailer, which made "The Babysitters" look much more exciting and suspenseful than it actually is. For details, visit www.thebabysitters.com .