The Sitter review

Jonah Hill headlines a movie for the first time. So then: is The Sitter a quality, R-rated comedy to round off the year? Er...

The Sitter

Noah (Jonah Hill) is a nice guy. We know this because, as his semi-girlfriend Marisa (Ari Graynor) says in the movie’s cold opening – after some moaning and writhing from the lady in question – nice guys give the best oral sex. Aside from that, Noah’s not got much on the ball. He’s got no job, he’s got no prospects, he’s a college drop-out, and he’s even kind of a jerk to his hapless mother.

Still, when he absolutely has to step up and do something nice for someone else, he eventually comes around. He always comes around in an attempt to please the people around him, starting with agreeing to babysit the children of his mother’s friends Dr and Mrs. Pedulla: Slater (Max Records) the sensitive early teen with a lot of anxiety, Blithe (Landry Bender) the wannabe celebutante who sings along to foul-mouthed rap songs and wears too much makeup, and adopted Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez) the adopted foreign kid who slicks his hair back and has a thing for fireworks.

Things are going… well, things are going badly until Marisa calls, asking Noah to go score her some coke from Karl with a K (Sam Rockwell), a drug-dealer who has an interesting lifestyle. Then, things get worse. Much worse. Things explode, children beat up grown men, and Noah commits multiple felonies as he dashes across New York in a borrowed/stolen minivan.

There’s no doubt The Sitter has been sitting around the vaults of 20th Century Fox for a long time now. The flick was slated to be released in August, only to be pushed back another four months until December. It’s obvious: take one look at Jonah Hill now and then look at him in this movie and you’ll see two different people.

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Given that he’s still old Jonah Hill in The Sitter, you’ll get a lot of the standard Jonah Hill comedy with the standard Jonah Hill performance. He’s a nice guy doing stupid things to get laid by a girl way too hot for him. The only energy in the performance, aside from the kids, is from Sam Rockwell, playing one of the weirdest drug dealers in movie history – albeit played in a very straight sort of way by Rockwell, who knows not to wink at his character’s overly-quirky personality or it will ruin everything. 

That’s the problem with The Sitter. It’s just a foul-mouthed, farting, drug-snorting version of Adventures In Babysitting, except not fresh or unique. There’s no addition to the formula that changes it in any substantial way. You know exactly what’s going to happen from the moment Noah agrees to babysit for his mother’s friends. There will be hijinks and goings on, terrible things will happen, and at the end of the night everyone will have learned a valuable lesson and things will be completely changed for the better. The end.

Meanwhile, David Gordon Green seems to have stumbled as of late. He’s gone from dramas like George Washington and All The Real Girls to comedies. Pineapple Express worked, because he had a brilliant cast and a very funny script. Your Highness and The Sitter can’t say the same.

Your Highness had a brilliant cast, but a terrible script and a bad idea to start with. The Sitter has some strong players (Hill, Sam Rockwell, and arguably Max Records), but there’s not a lot of funny to be milked from the situation, especially when we’ve seen “kids with a terrible babysitter and/or in trouble” about a million times before.

From a technical standpoint the movie is good, but man, the script from Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka is not up to that standard. Maybe David Gordon Green needs to go back to writing the films he directs.

There’s no real reason for this movie to exist, yet here we are. If you absolutely adore sharting children and Jonah Hill, then maybe you’ll get some laughs out of The Sitter. I laughed a few times, but a lot more of the jokes fell flat thanks in no small part to the fact that I’d seen it all before, and in better movies than this. There’s too much recycling and not enough originality.

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Like the TV in the den of the Pedulla home, The Sitter must be stuck in the past.

2 stars

US correspondent Ron Hogan has to wonder if there are more old Jonah Hill movies just waiting to be released years after they were produced. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

Rating:

2 out of 5