Way before she grabbed an Oscar nomination for her searing performance as a world-weary prostitute in Leaving Las Vegas, Elisabeth Shue was known as one of the squeaky-clean actresses of the '80s. Having made a splash in The Karate Kid and the '60s-nostalgia TV series Call to Glory, Shue cemented her good-girl reputation with the charming but badly titled Adventures in Babysitting. Set in the John Hughes-style suburbs of Chicago, the titular adventures follow babysitter Chris (Shue), who agrees to watch the Anderson kids (Keith Coogan and Maia Brewton) when her boyfriend cancels their anniversary date. All is quiet on the home front until Chris is called upon to rescue her best friend (Penelope Ann Miller, also doing good-girl duty) from the seedy downtown bus station. She can't leave the kids, and she can't leave her friend alone in the big bad city, so she packs everyone in the station wagon and heads into Chicago. Screwball craziness begins as they encounter car thieves, knife-wielding gangs, gun-toting truck drivers, and, worst of all, Chris's duplicitous boyfriend. It's hardly mature entertainment, but Shue makes it work; when she wins over the audience at a blues club with her improv singing, you'll be won over, too. In his directorial debut, Chris Columbus (who later went on to helm the sap-fests Mrs. Doubtfire and Home Alone) gently skewers the suburbia white-bread mindset of the main characters, and plays up the comedy over the schmaltz with a subtlety of which he now seems incapable; the near romance between Shue and Coogan is played lightly and adorably. Look for brief appearances by art-house faves Lolita Davidovich as a college party girl and Vincent D'Onofrio as an unlikely savior. --Mark Englehart
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