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

Film

Simone Joy Jones in 2024's 'Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead.'

(Center) Simone Joy Jones in 2024’s ‘Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.’ Photo: BET+.

Opening in limited release in theaters on April 12th, ‘Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead’ takes the basic structure of the 1991 comedy that starred Christina Applegate and gives it a fresh new life with some worthwhile changes and a handful of solid, charismatic performances bolstered by a story that doesn’t tie itself in knots trying to get the protagonists into scrapes.

Crucially, it also finds a tone that works to set the new movie apart from the original, so while there are many of the same beats, they enjoy a new spin.

Related Article: Simone Joy Jones and Nicole Richie Talk ‘Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead’

Is ‘Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead’ a Welcome Remake?

2024's 'Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead.'

2024’s ‘Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.’ Photo: BET+.

Remakes are a longtime bugbear of fandom, particularly online, with each new permutation chastised as the end of creativity and a sign of Hollywood’s lack of imagination. Take a recognizable title, slap on a different cast and tweak one or two ideas, and voila! New movie that can be sold over again.

And there is a raft of movies that it would be wise never to touch –– we’ve seen studios stumble trying to revisit the likes of ‘RoboCop’, ‘The Wicker Man’ and more. Fortunately for ‘Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead’, the new movie has a head start, since the original is a fun film, but hardly a stone cold classic.

Which makes this new one all the more opportune. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s also a rather fun night at the movies.

‘Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead’: Script and Direction

2024's 'Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead.'

2024’s ‘Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.’ Photo: BET+.

Chuck Hayward wrote the new version, with the story still credited to the original’s Neil Landau and Tara Ison, as is only right since it uses a lot of their concept.

Still, Hayward’s work on the new movie can’t be ignored, since he’s done a lot to update the premise –– one of the characters, when someone else suggests a way to get rid of the dead babysitter, scoffs, “this isn’t 1991…” And indeed it isn’t a cast of wealthy white folk either.

Though the new family is certainly not without money (and still live in a giant house), their race plays into a lot of the setup, since Tanya Crandell (Simone Joy Jones) and her siblings are acutely aware that as four black kids, they would not find many friends among the local sheriff’s department were they to reveal that their babysitter is dead –– even if she did, like in the original, pass away in her sleep.

2024's 'Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead.' Photo: BET+.

2024’s ‘Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.’ Photo: BET+.

Much like the original, though, the focus is a lot on Tanya (as it was on Christina Applegate’s Swell), who has to bear the brunt of finding work to make money and care for her brothers and sister. Yet the screenplay shares the love around –– her family aren’t lazy layabouts; yes, even weed-happy brother Kelly (Donielle T. Hansley Jr.), who steps up when really called upon. There are welcome character arcs for everyone, even the younger siblings’ eccentricities called upon to help when the moment requires it (younger sister Melissa, played by Ayaamii Sledge, is obsessed with true crime cases and CSI-style shows, and is a natural when it comes to dealing with the dead).

And around the leads, the script builds a collection of characters who feel like people more than archetypes –– they all have wants and needs, and no one is just a villain or anything else.

Wade Allain-Marcus keeps things moving and works well with his cast to get the most out of them. It’s also not a flat, boring shooting style, though it’s unfussy and lets the comedy flow.

‘Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead’: Performances

Simone Joy Jones in 2024's 'Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead.'

(Left) Simone Joy Jones in 2024’s ‘Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.’ Photo: BET+.

The storyline naturally falls mostly on Jones, and she’s more than up to the task of making Tanya believably human. She’s not superwoman –– the responsibilities weigh on her and she’s as a capable of being a brat as anyone else in the household. She’s also convincingly a teenager, particularly around her mother (Ms. Pat, who has cameos at the beginning and end) and when falling for Bryan (Miles Fowler).

The relationship angle is perhaps the weaker, more traditional storyline here, but its inoffensive and has its charms.

Nicole Richie in 2024's 'Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead.'

Nicole Richie in 2024’s ‘Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.’ Photo: BET+.

At the workplace that Tanya fakes her way into comes across as a version of ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, while still drawing from the original storyline. Nicole Ritchie is essentially playing a version of herself, but if there’s something that she knows how to do in the acting arena, it’s that –– and she has a lot of fun doing it.

While June Squibb naturally has more limited screentime as Mrs. Sturak, the babysitter, she makes an impression early on, revealing that she’s watched Madea movies in order to learn how to wrangle the kids.

‘Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead’: Final Thoughts

Simone Joy Jones in 2024's 'Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead.' Photo: BET+.

(Right) Simone Joy Jones in 2024’s ‘Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.’ Photo: BET+.

Winning and actually welcome in the sphere of remakes, this new version actually earns its reason to exist and provides a good group of characters to root for and also laugh at.

And how refreshing it is to be able to say that?

‘Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead’ receives 7 out of 10 stars.

What is the Plot of ‘Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter is Dead’?

17-year-old Tanya’s (Simone Joy Jones) plans for a carefree summer are derailed when her stressed-to-the-limit mom (Patricia “Ms. Pat” Williams) takes off for a wellness retreat and puts Tanya and her three siblings in the charge of a crotchety (and racist) old babysitter (June Squibb). The babysitter’s sudden death leaves the kids short on cash and reluctant to pull mom prematurely out of her much-needed R&R, so Tanya is forced to get a job. Posing as an adult, she gets a gig as the executive assistant at a fashion company and overnight is thrust into the world of adulthood and parenting.

Who is in the Cast of ‘Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter is Dead’?

  • Simone Joy Jones as Tanya Crandell
  • Nicole Richie as Rose Lindsey
  • June Squibb as Mrs. Sturak
  • Patricia “Ms. Pat” Williams as Mom
  • Donielle T. Hansley Jr. as Kelly
  • Miles Fowler as Bryan
June Squibb in 2024's 'Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead.'

June Squibb in 2024’s ‘Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.’ Photo: BET+.

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