The brand new Disney Channel original film, (the first this year) Adventures in Babysitting is both forward thinking and also looks backwards.
Obviously, the backward aspect of the film is that it’s a soft remake of the 1987 film Adventures in Babysitting, from which it takes its title, (as well as its structure, though tonally the films are generally unrelated). The other, perhaps more troubling reason that it feels backwards, is that much of the early part of the film comes off as cloying, cartoony and unreal without having much in the way of development. The baddies are cheesy, many of the younger characters are one note, and it doesn’t feel like much of an adventure.
But the film surprisingly offers a deep (forward-thinking) message. Though the film unnecessarily doubles the amount of babysitters from one to two, little by little, the interaction between the Type A Jenny Parker (Sabrina Carpenter, from Girl Meets World) and the free-spirited Lola Perez (Sofia Carson from Disney’s Descendants) starts to soften. The pair begin as rivals for a photography internship, but the tension between them eventually dissipates as they are marooned “in the city” and must take care of the children from a pair of families for which they are babysitting, (Lola having no babysitting experience of which to speak).
The film is surprisingly meditative on the issue of female friendship and rivalries, and interestingly, the supporting characters, especially the females, bring a sense of levity to the film’s ending (Nikki Hahn, as green-haired Emily Cooper is a standout).
Some familiar faces appear, such as Canadian actress Gabrielle Miller as Emily’s mother Donna, whose event sets the action of the film into motion. There are some cute gags, a slightly less effective staging of the original film’s Babysitter Blues, and rote directing by John Schultz.
The film is at its best when it’s loosest, as the outtakes (the DVD’s one special feature) show that the main cast seemed to enjoy the experience. While Carson is from the Demi Lovato school of acting in Disney films, with a likewise repetitive facial expression, Carpenter, Carson and especially Hahn seem to be stars on the rise. Perhaps they’ll find material that is a little bit more adventurous.