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Review: Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (2024)

Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (2024)

Directed by: Wade Allain-Marcus

Premise: A remake of the 1991 film. A group of siblings spend the summer under the oversight of an irascible old woman (June Squibb). When she unexpectedly dies, the young people must find a way to provide for themselves. The oldest sister (Simone Joy Jones) gets a job at the headquarters of a fashion label.

What Works: The 2024 version of Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead is a race flipped remake; the original was about a white family but the new version recasts the family with Black actors. The core story is intact but the filmmakers have found ways to improve the material. Instead of a vacation, the mother is sent on a work mandated anger management retreat where she won’t have access to outside communication, adapting this scenario for the era of cellphones, social media, and home cameras. The death of the titular babysitter is tangentially linked to the reckless actions of the kids (although not in a malicious way) and the filmmakers use contemporary anxieties about racial tensions to add a new layer of meaning to story. Like the original, the story mostly focuses on Tanya, the oldest sister played by Simone Joy Jones, as she takes a fulltime job and matures into a responsible adult while developing a romance with an architecture student. Tanya’s maturation into a responsible adult is mostly credible and the romance is likable and done better in this version. Tanya has an office rivalry with another assistant (Iantha Richardson). This is also notably improved with the filmmakers streamlining some of the plotting and giving the rival assistant a credible cause for her grudge against Tanya. The remake of Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead is consistently funny. In her brief screentime, June Squibb is a terror as the babysitter and Ayaamii Sledge and Carter Young showcase suburb comic timing as the youngest siblings.

What Doesn’t: The remake of Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead is fundamentally the same story as the original. Most of the major story beats are identical and the necessity of this version is debatable. It’s justified insofar as the filmmakers have made modest improvements to the material but there are no surprises for those familiar with the original picture. In a bit of stunt casting, Nicole Richie plays the boss of the clothing company. Richie’s performance is a little stiff and self-conscious. The technical qualities of Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead are uneven. The sound mix is notably poor in a few places with the actor’s dialogue lost in a garble of music and sound effects.

Bottom Line: Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead is a funny update of the 1991 film. It’s a new version of the same story but, aside from some technical flaws, the filmmakers have found ways to improve the material and update it for a contemporary audience.

Episode: #993 (April 21, 2024)