The Friday matinee of "The Babysitters Club" was packed with eleven year old girls whose heads barely came up to the top of the theatre seats. They'd memorised some of the lines in Ann M. Martin's best selling series by heart so they could chant along with the onscreen characters. One girl in my row had read about fifteen of the books: there's over 75 in circulation plus over fifty of the Little Sister spin-offs and over a dozen mysteries besides. And then there are the dolls (available at Toys `r' Us and rather pricey: if you want to collect all seven, you're looking at the high side of $250). That's a LOT of babysitting bucks. In an era when grownups are constantly kvetching that kids never read books any more, "The Babysitters Club" clearly has attracted loyal admirers who want to own every title for their collection.
Melanie Mayron, who directed the remake of the Disney classic "Freaky Friday" earlier this year, is at the helm, working with a script by Dalene Young. My problem with the "Freaky Friday" update, which I attributed to its small screen budget, was that Mayron had considerably reduced the stakes in the Mom-&-kid-mixed-identity saga. But on the big screen, the problem still exists: substantial screen time is spent on script challenges that matter to no one, not even the characters. There's a big build-up with a fizzle finish when Stacey worries that she'll be dumped by a cute guy with a bogus accent because she's a diabetic and only thirteen-years old.
MANY sequences explore the burning issue of whether artistic Claudia Kishi will pass her science test or have to leave the club so she can study more. Will a town meanie win the heart of Mary Ann Spier's boyfriend Logan? Will that geeky guy win the heart of pretty Dawn Schaefer? Will Dawn and the club win the heart of the next door gardener played by Ellen Burstyn? And most attenuated of all, will the sports-mad president Kristy withstand the pressure of lying to the whole sweet club and equally sweet mother (Brooke Adams) & stepfather (Bruce Davison) because her charming but shiftless real father (Peter Horton) has sworn her to secrecy about his surreptitious return? After 85 suspenseless minutes padded with second unit footage & MTV style shots, everything's tied up to the adult creative team's satisfaction. Frankly, its eleven-year-old audience, who've read all the boots, won`t mind a bit: the club members, headed by Sissy Spacek `s and Jack Fisk's daughter Schuyler as Kristy are, like, totally cute & cool & larger than life. Only the squirming grownups they've dragged along could ask for anything more.
P.S. The T.V. show is way better.
Copyright 1995 Monica Sullivan
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