The Crazysitter (1994): Oh Pair!

If you crossed a Roger Corman movie with an episode of MADtv, Dave reckons this kids’ comedy is exactly what you’d get.

After graduating from the University of Southern California with a business degree, Michael McDonald ventured into banking until the end of the ‘80s when a trip to an improv gig convinced him to give comedy a shot. As the next decade rolled around, McDonald found himself in the enviable position of being inducted into the infamous Groundlings troupe while simultaneously earning his stripes on the set of Roger Corman pictures such as In the Heat of Passion (1992) and Dance with Death (1992). It seemed only natural, then, that for his debut as writer/director, McDonald harnessed this dual vocation, popped it into a blender, and poured a glass of THE CRAZYSITTER.

Promising to be “in the Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) vein with a little Home Alone (1990) mixed in” – well, according to the VHS box at least – The Crazysitter certainly proved to be a painful endeavour for many a critic. Entertainment Weekly’s Michael Sauter remarked how “this lowbrow lark is not the kind of thing you’d pay to see in a cinema” [1], though TV Guide did have some kind words about star Beverly D’Angelo, noting that “a competent actor can shine in a great part, but it takes a real trouper to persevere in thin direct-to-video filler like this.” [2]

A gaggle of stinging critiques, both of which are aloof to McDonald’s quirky witticisms and clueless to his irreverent buffoonery. The Crazysitter might come under the guise of a BTEC John Hughes movie, but to judge it so would mean ignoring its genuinely hysterical aspects.

In the movie, D’Angelo stars as Edie: a petty criminal ousted from a life of relative simplicity in the joint and forced back into swindling. Eager for the next get-rich-quick scheme, Edie stumbles upon the well-heeled Van Arsdales (Ed Begley Jr. and Carol Kane) who are in desperate need of a nanny to take care of their precocious blonde-haired twins, Bea (Rachel Duncan) and Jason (Brady Bluhm, who’d also head up Royal Oaks’ Corman-distributed Alone in the Woods (1996)). Sensing there’s cash to be made from this Stepford-esque pair, Edie embarks on a potentially lucrative tour of prospective kiddie purchasers…

Bursting with a bevy of unconventional cameos, it’s here where The Crazysitter shines. Its satire of daytime TV is blisteringly on point, with Lisa Kudrow as a vacuous chat show host and McDonald himself as a toupee’d guest pining for his abducted children. The Whites (Tim Bagley and Sheila Travis) make for a deeply disturbing couple who have ‘accidentally’ sterilised themselves on purpose and reside in a home that forbids tomato sauce of any persuasion. However, it’s the brief bow from Phil Hartman that creases. The late NewsRadio star plays a lecherous salesman who wastes no time in sleazily informing Edie that she’s not his type (“I’m more of a chubby chaser”).

Shot in Vancouver, The Crazysitter debuted on Cinemax in January 1995 before making its home video debut the following May courtesy of New Horizons (on the same day as Mark L. Lester’s Night of the Running Man (1995) no less). Slapped with a PG-13 that excluded the under-ten demographic that Corman marketed it towards, McDonald’s picture didn’t capture the audience it needed. A shame: The Crazysitter will never grace a ‘best kids’ flicks’ list, but there’s enough quality on show to render its stay in obscurity unwarranted.

USA ● 1994 ● Family, Comedy ● 91mins

Beverly D’Angelo, Ed Begley Jr., Carol Kane, Phil Hartman, Lisa Kudrow ● Wri./Dir. Michael McDonald

[1] The Crazysitter Review, Entertainment Weekly, 19th May 1995.
[2] The Crazysitter Review, TV Guide, 21st May 1995.

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