The Distinct 80s Incongruities of Adventures in Babysitting

In general, the 80s as a whole were incongruous. The impractical fashions, the music that employed instruments never used before or since in mainstream pop (chiefly, the saxophone) and, most especially, the movies. One of the most prime examples of this is the 1987 film, Adventures in Babysitting, written by David Simkins and directed by Chris Columbus (not to be confused with the directionally-challenged explorer). Simkins, whose achievements post-AIB would consist primarily of producing the WB’s Charmed, establishes an insane in-between world that’s equal parts New York, equal parts Chicago (the 80s’ two favorite milieus with regard to film).

Chris fears for her life every other second throughout most of the film's narrative
Chris fears for her life every other second throughout most of the film’s narrative
In the decidedly 80s scenario of AIB, our heroine, Chris Parker (Elisabeth Shue) excitedly prepares for an anniversary dinner with her boyfriend, Mike (Bradley Whitford), only to have him cancel on her with the excuse that his little sister is sick and he has to take care of her. But not before another 80s signature of playing 60s music during a scene takes places as she listens to “Then He Kissed Me” by The Crystals. With nothing else to do, Chris reluctantly agrees to babysit the Andersons, including 15-year-old Brad (Keith Coogan), who goes to school with Chris and is rather obsessed with her. All the key 80s plot points are lined up at his point: misplaced affection, a white girl suffering from disappointment (see also: Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink) and the mention of Drano as a means of suicide (see: Heathers).
One of the cheesiest, most uncomfortable scenes ever rendered to film involves this group of white people singing the blues
One of the cheesiest, most uncomfortable scenes ever rendered to film involves this group of white people singing the blues
The zany factor, of course, has to be amplified by Chris’ overly dramatic friend, Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller), who begs Chris to pick her up at the train station, where her half-baked attempt to run away has failed. Concerned about leaving Brad, his sister, Sara (Maia Brewton), and his best friend, Daryl (Anthony Rapp), behind, Chris relents in taking them (but mainly because they threaten to tell on her if she doesn’t).
Vincent D'Onofrio is also inexplicably in the movie as Thor
Vincent D’Onofrio is also inexplicably in the movie as Thor
It is from this point forward that the ludicrousness of the story deepens, with events like knife fights on the subway, car thieving (another 80s exclusive occurrence in terms of actual profitability), singing in a blues club about babysitting and encountering Thor’s “by day” alter ego being portrayed as par for the course. While this can be, in many ways, annoying to watch from a modern vantage point, it’s also completely endearing–evoking nostalgia for a time that prided itself on suspension of disbelief and the use of madcap, eccentric comedies that seemed normal only in this particular decade.