Examples of this movie plot device?

Hi SD,

I’m wondering what the origin is of the plot device where the protagonist has to fix everything just in time so that other powerful characters (e.g. parents, teachers, bosses) don’t find anything amiss? I am sure there is a better way to explain this. Maybe I should just give an example. Adventures in Babysitting features the main characters getting home just in time so that the parents don’t find out their crazy adventures . Ferris Bueller I think might be another one…? Is there a name for this type of plot device where the movie is based on carrying out a ruse (sometimes against time) and the character always succeeds in “getting away with it.” If so, where did it get its start?

I ask this because it’s a common trope (sp?) that the mischievous kid hops into bed and pulls the blanket over himself just before the parents come in. Or you know that montage where you see the kid trying to clean house and then the parents driving home, coming slowly toward the door, turning the knob, and then the climax…it’s as if none of these crazy shenanigans had ever happened! Whew!

And why does it work? My guess is it’s that the audience vicariously shares the thrill of rebelling against authority and causing chaos without any long-term consequences.

Like those times you snooped in your parents’ drawers and they never found out! Yeah, I know you did that more than once :slight_smile:


The Cat in the Hat (book version) is one early example.

Another example; the movie Risky Business.


As for what this is called, TV Tropes mentions the last-minute cleanup as an element of the “wild teen party.”

“Weird Science” must be the poster child for this.

Just the opposite: In “The Gate” (1987), Mom and Dad are away, young teens have a sleepover party, release demons via the gates of Hell, everything gets trashed, demons are vanquished, kids sit down amid the wreckage and wait for 'rents to get home.

In “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, they rush to turn back the car’s odometer (and fail) and he rushes to get back into bed before his parents get home.