Going back in time to this 1987 movie, in which Toronto plays Chicago.
Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.
Sometimes it’s fun going back into the past for a bit. As we’ve done a couple of times lately, with Strange Brew and Police Academy, it’s a chance to revisit a “classic” movie shot here many moons ago, and also revisit a column we did back in our earliest days.
Enter Adventures in Babysitting! It stars future Oscar nominee Elisabeth Shue, future Rent star Anthony Rapp, and serves as the directing debut of Chris Columbus, who’d go on to do smashes like Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, and the first couple of Harry Potter films. He also came back here to shoot Pixels but, um, yeah…He did some good movies first.
Naturally, it also features Toronto playing Chicago!
Of course, the movie’s all about a bunch of suburban folks who get lost in the big, bad city. So, we have to start out in some tony suburbs. Shue lives in this Hoggs Hollow house, on Donwoods Drive (which has been significantly renovated in the intervening years).
That Camaro belongs to her boyfriend, future West Wing (and Billy Madison) star, Bradley Whitford.
Then she goes to visit her babysitting charges, who live in an even fancier house, between the Bridle Path area and Sunnybrook Hospital on Valleyanna Drive. Yup, the ol’ three-car garage is still there.
She gets a call from her friend, played by Penelope Ann Miller, who’d soon be back in town for The Freshman.
She’s stuck at the grungy bus station. The exteriors are Chicago…
…but the interiors are our own Coach Terminal on Bay Street.
So, Shue and the kids head down to Chicago. Their tire blows out on a highway, which, sadly, is actually there. But then they get into a tow truck, and the driver takes them to his home where his wife is cheating on him. Bear with us!
The street looks a little nicer today and less like the place where a tow truck driver armed with a gun and a hook for a hand beats his wife in a teen comedy…
…It’s Lewis Street, in Riverside. Number 49, to be precise.
Then they get stuck in a car with a car thief, and he drives them down to a bad (steamy, even!) neighbourhood. But it’s actually just pre-gentrification Liberty Village (as also seen in the finale of Police Academy). Indeed, this bridge thingy is still there, a heritage landmark and part of the Toronto Carpet Factory.
Dude then pulls into a chop shop and, by all rights, we shouldn’t be able to ID this random alleyway. Except we can—it’s at Liberty and Pardee. The exact same location (albeit in daytime) can be seen as the exterior of Jeff Goldblum’s lab in The Fly.
The actual building seems to be gone now, however. Don’t cry—it died so hipsters would have somewhere to live and get fair trade coffee.
Then, this being a rather episodic movie, they escape to a blues club, where Albert Collins is very serious about the blues.
And they’re being pursued by character actor Ron Canada who, very sadly, is not Canadian. Still, Canada!
Anyway, usually with these things they shoot interiors wherever they can and grab exteriors in the actual location (Chicago, in this case), but here it’s backwards. This club is apparently FitzGerald’s…
…but the exterior is obviously…
…our very own Silver Dollar.
Those shots are actually when they exit. They enter through this alleyway, which has appeared in a surprising number of films, including The Samaritan. Yes, Elisabeth Shue and Samuel L. Jackson have been in this alleyway.
Then they escape to the subway and the shots of the station are definitely in Chicago. The interior isn’t a TTC train, but it might just be a set, since that’s the easiest way to explain the presence of baby-faced Toronto-raised actor Clark Johnson, who has gone on to be a pretty huge TV director on the side. He directed the first and last episodes of both The Shield and The Wire, so he’s come a long way.
Anyway, then Shue says the one f-word you’re allowed in a PG movie, then they’re in a hospital.
When they go outside, they find themselves at this disguised apartment building on Lowther…
Inside, Keith Coogan gets cozy with this up-and-coming local actress, Lolita Davidovich.
Then they’re on the move again, as we rocket towards the finale! But first Shue finds out that Whitford has been two-timing her and is actually at this fancy restaurant, strangely called Le Petit Bleu. It’s gone now, but this is the Wellesley Street entrance of Accents, the restaurant at the old Sutton Place Hotel.
We confess, we don’t think this interior was shot there, but we’re not sure.
Anyway, now they’re trying to get to the parents, who are at a party in Chicago’s Associates Center (as it was then known). Every time you see it, pretty much, it’s just a special effect.
The interior is a set and, hey, that’s John Hemphill! He has, like, two lines, so it’s very random—but you’ll recognize him from SCTV or Maniac Mansion or Schitt’s Creek, depending how old you are.
Our young (ahead of the MCU curve!) heroine, actress Maia Brewton, stares at this toy shop window, now gone, but formerly on Bloor….
…just west of Yonge. Then she runs when the bad guys come.
She darts into this entrance, which is not in Chicago…
…but we can ID it, thanks to the sculpture outside, as 160 Bloor Street East.
Also cool: the Scotiabank branch is still there.
Then the bad guys get arrested, the kids get home in time so the parents are none the wiser, and we fade to black with “And Then He Kissed Me,” the same nostalgic 60s song that opened the movie, yada yada yada.
Classic or not, Adventures in Babysitting was apparently deemed worthy of a low-rent Disney reboot earlier this year.
They don’t have too much in common, unless (and how obvious is this?) you count trading “The Babysitting Blues” for a rap battle. Kids today! The important thing is that those cheapos shot it in Vancouver. Keep it, Hollywood North Junior. We’ll stand by the original.