Directed by Melanie Mayron

Starring Schuyler Fisk, Peter Horton

"The Baby-Sitters' Club"

Opened: August 18, 1995 | Rated: G

"The Baby-Sitters Club" has a very specific target audience -- girls between the ages of 11 and 14 -- and while that audience might thoroughly enjoy the movie, anyone older will find themselves repeatedly reaching for the remote control that isn't there. Anyone younger will fidget uncontrollably in their seats.

This picture is based on a popular series of books published by Scholastic, which co-produced the film. I'm sure these adolescent joy and angst stories work just fine as books, but something is lost in the translation.

The movie follows a group of seven pubescent baby-sitters who start a summer day care center. It is overwrought with plot -- one girl's long-absent father returns, a 13-year-old falls for an older boy, another has a dweeb in love with her, and the local snobby girl is out to get them all -- but it doesn't have the energy or the depth to sustain the interest of someone who doesn't face these problems day to day.

Newcomer Schuyler Fisk plays Kristy, the founder of the club, who organizes the day camp but doesn't live up to her responsibilities when her absentee father (Peter Horton, best known for his role in television's "thirtysomething") moves back to town and tries to buddy up to her. The father-daughter relationship is one of the better aspects of the picture, especially the dilemma Kristy faces when her father asks her not to tell anyone he's back until he's found a job.

His insecurity and her moral tug-of-war over keeping a secret are the most genuine feelings in the film and this story gets the most screen time.

The other girls' story lines are never fully explored, and as a result the only characters with any depth are Kristy and her father. You can only do so much in 90 minutes, and trying to flesh out seven ensemble characters was a little ambitious.

Even though the story is shallow, it is well organized -- like chapters in a book -- and the script does help the audience keep track of who's who by regularly using first names and slapping each girl with a cliche characteristic (the artist, the clothes hound, et al). But because of barely adequate acting by some of the girls and other minor problems, "The Baby-Sitters Club" never fills up the whole screen. This is the first time director Melanie Mayron (who was also on "thirtysomething") has ventured outside the world of television, and her vision is still on that smaller scale. "The Baby-Sitters Club" might have worked as an after school special, but as a theatrical release it's a dud.

This review appeared in the Daily Republic, Fairfield, CA.

©1995 All Rights Reserved.

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