'Babysitter's Dead' director: Remake worked better with Black characters

Donielle T. Hansley Jr. and Simone Joy Jones star in "Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead." Photo courtesy of Fence 2021 Films, LLC
1 of 5 | Donielle T. Hansley Jr. and Simone Joy Jones star in "Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead." Photo courtesy of Fence 2021 Films, LLC

LOS ANGELES, April 12 (UPI) -- Director Wade Allain-Marcus said recasting Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead with Black characters justified remaking the 1991 original. The comedy, in theaters Friday, is about four siblings unsupervised for the summer after their babysitter dies.

"I just felt like the movie worked better Black," Allain-Marcus, 38, told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "This is a different way into this story and deserves to exist."


Allain-Marcus said Chuck Hayward's script addressed how Black teenagers might handle the situation differently than their White counterparts.

"There's this line in the movie, 'We have a dead White lady in our house. People have been lynched for far less,'" Allain-Marcus said. "That can turn bad and real very quickly."

Both versions of Don't Tell Mom avoid dramatic repercussions for the dead babysitter. The films are fantasies Allain-Marcus compares to the films of John Hughes, like Ferris Bueller's Day Off.


Simone Joy Jones plays Tanya, the eldest, who takes it upon herself to get a job to support the family for the summer. Allain-Marcus said Black audiences have fewer examples of teen movie romps than their White counterparts.

"Obviously, you do have these young Black kids who have to deal with this dead White lady's body," Allain-Marcus said. "But what would it look like if it stayed kind of buoyant and jubilant?"

Allain-Marcus said that remaking proven concepts provides Black filmmakers like himself the opportunity to tackle other genres. Other remakes with Black casts include Annie, Steel Magnolias and The First Wives Club.

"There's just a lack of Black stories that get to be told," Allain-Marcus said. "Sometimes the only way that we can get in there is if we use a White story."

More than just the race of the characters has changed since 1991. Tanya tries driving for rideshare apps for income, and uses LinkedIn and social media to create a fake resume that gets her in the door of a fashion agency.

Allain-Marcus said Spike Lee's Crooklyn also was a tonal influence. Lee's film was about five siblings growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y.

"Ultimately, it's a sibling love story wrapped in an adventure comedy," Allain-Marcus said. "I think we wanted it to feel absurd, but not broad, to make it feel lived in and textured."


Without spoiling who appears, many of the cast members from the 1991 film make cameo appearances in the remake.

"There were a lot of people from the cast who were just so excited that we were doing this remake," Allain-Marcus said.

The star of the 1991 film was Christina Applegate. Allain-Marcus said his production reached out to Applegate, but the timing coincided with her 2021 diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, so could not schedule a movie appearance.

"She's still in there very much in spirit," Allain-Marcus said of Applegate.

The Don't Tell Mom remake was developed for BET+, the streaming service of the Black Entertainment Television channel. Allain-Marcus said a one-week theatrical run had been planned, but distributor Iconic Events expanded the release after seeing his new version.

"This is a testament to the movie that they decided to open it nationwide and put it in theaters for a month before it goes to BET+," Allain-Marcus said.

Allain-Marcus said he became familiar with the original when it played frequently on HBO in the '90s, adding that he is aware fans consider the original precious, and that he hopes they give his version a chance.

"Fans don't have to be excited for this movie to have a Black cast in it, of course," Allain-Marcus said. "I think we honor the original in many different ways and also make something that feels original and unique."


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