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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
I was lucky enough to grow up with the Majestic Theatre as my local movie-going joint. I always considered the place a fantastic venue to see a flick, even if it wasn’t that great a flick. The atmosphere made up for many short-comings a film might have. Some of my formative childhood viewings took place in the old Majestic, including seeing blockbuster films like Home Alone, Batman Returns, and Jurassic Park. But every movie I saw in the old Majestic was special, because even as a child I wondered how long the theater could possibly remain open for business. I cherished my time in that place, was disheartened when it finally did close for good in the fall of 1995 (only to reopen permanently in 2007). I come not to wax nostalgic about the Majestic, as much as I’d love to (maybe another day?). Instead I come to once again talk about the greatest year cinema has ever seen, 1995. So, on with the show.
Despite being an absolutely wretched movie filled with bad performances, a lousy script, and direction that could best be described as “sparse,” The Baby Sitter’s Club, the live-action adaptation of the Ann M. Martin series of best-selling young adult novels, was the last movie I saw as a child in the majestic, thereby deeming it somewhat “special” to me. The Baby Sitter’s Club, released theatrically in August 1995, is the story of a group of teen and pre-teen friends who in their spare summer time open up a day-camp for youths. In the midst of this wacky and unforgettable summer, the friends go through all kinds of personal journeys of growth and discovery, each of which is less interesting than the last.
The film is anchored by the awful performance of Schuyler Fisk as Kristy Thomas, ostensibly the lead friend. Fisk, who appears to be about 13 years old in the film, is clearly in the midst of an incredibly awkward phase of her life. She’s also, once again at this point, an incredibly lousy actress. Her story arc, about reuniting with her flibbertigibbet of a father, should be poignant, moving, and redemptive but is instead laughable and ridiculous, as if it were filmed by the second unit director of a Saved by the Bell episode.
Other story arcs are equally uninteresting and unintentionally comedic. Second lead Kristy McGill (an actress who has appeared on nearly every television series ever), is embarrassed by her juvenile diabetes (the horror!) and too scared to tell her would-be love interest Luca (German actor Christian Oliver) about her disease. Speaking of which, Luca is a 17 year old Swiss relative of a friend, and his relationship with a 13 year old Kristy is another cringe-worthy aspect of the film. Tertiary stories involve the Asian member of the group failing her summer science class (like we’re really supposed to believe an Asian would ever fail a science class!) and a young Rachel Leigh Cook coming to terms with lying to her friends all summer long.
One of the most interesting aspects of this film is its young cast. Though most of the actors performed poorly in this film, many of them have gone on to appear in other work quite often. The cast includes Larissa Oleynik, whom older fans of Nickelodeon will surely remember, as well as the aforementioned Rachel Leigh Cook (She’s All That) and Marla Sokoloff (Party of Five, The Practice) as the “villain” of the movie. Famed actress Ellen Burstyn and solid character actor Bruce Davison also appear, adding gravitas to a movie that should have been direct-to-video or at least premiered on network television.
The Baby Sitter’s Club is filled with embarrassing performances and moments throughout its hour and a half running time. I can’t imagine many people would want their twelve or thirteen year old selves preserved in this manner (I know I wouldn’t). Most of us are so awkward we spend the rest of our lives trying to forget this time period. From its humiliatingly dated rap scene (immediately placing this movie squarely in 1995) to its slobs-vs.-snobs aesthetic (borrowed from the many 80s classics that preceded it), this unfortunate gem of a movie is best left forgotten about, even if it was the last movie I saw in a beloved local theater.