Comedy Movie

Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitters Dead

Director Wade Allain-Marcus’s “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead” is a remake of the 1991 original, repurposing an older narrative for a new generation and, this time around, centering on a Black family. Seventeen-year-old Tanya Crandell (Simone Joy Jones) looks forward to her summer in Spain with her friends. But when her mother (Patricia Williams) is shafted at work, losing out on a promotion to a younger, whiter, male-r counterpart, she has a mental breakdown that warrants a summer-long R&R stay, which co-opts Tanya’s budget for abroad and leaves her indignantly stuck at home. 

In her absence, Mrs. Crandell hires an elderly babysitter, Ms. Sturak (June Squibb), to watch the kids: Tanya, her stoner teen brother Kenny (Donielle T. Hensley Jr.), macabre little sister Melissa (Ayaamii Sledge), and nerdy kid brother Zack (Carter Young). Ms. Sturak is not the warm, fuzzy granny she appears to be, swapping out freshly baked cookies and comforting hugs for crude, blatantly racist remarks. When the siblings throw an all-out rager disguised as “Bible study,” the underage drinking, smoking, and queer romancing happening under their roof throws the conservative sitter into cardiac arrest. The kids are forced to hide the body and learn how to take care of themselves for the summer. 

The responsibility falls on Tanya as the eldest and most responsible; with some clever Google deep dives and intricate Canva work, the siblings create a 25-year-old simulacrum of their sister, who uses her newly faked identity to land a job at Libra, a fashion company helmed by the ultimate girlboss, Rose (Nicole Richie). As Tanya juggles a summer of office politics, adult responsibilities, and a freshly spawned romance, “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead” comedically centers on older sibling syndrome and the daunting pressures of adulthood and agency.

Writers Chuck Hayward, Neil Landau, and Tara Ison deliver a script chock full of hilarious one-liners that are kindly doled out evenly among the ensemble cast. Whether quipping on the quotidian precarities of being young Black kids in a wealthy white neighborhood (even aside from the dead white woman they disposed of) or the situational comedy of Tanya’s manufactured identity and adjustment to the 9-to-5 lifestyle, the script hands out laughs with generosity. Kenny’s penchant for weed and Melissa’s true crime fascinations also present familiar comedic archetypes for the film to lean on. 

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