Friday, December 9, 2011

Nothing We Haven't Seen Before: The Sitter

This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

There are so many things about the comedy "The Sitter" that perplex me, with perhaps the ultimate thing being its very existence. Who read the script and thought it was a good idea? I want names!

To start with, I find its star Jonah Hill a bit perplexing. He has made a consistent career out of playing characters that are just so loathsome and unlikable that I can't imagine anyone saying to themselves, "Hey! Jonah Hill stars in this. I love him!"

Then in the past year, he lost a bunch of weight, and I always find the whole falling-into-line-with-Hollywood-standards-of-attractiveness thing to be kind of sad, be it actor or actress. (Of course, I can't really know why he decided to lose weight, but it wasn't exactly surprising.) And he's been making the talk-show rounds this year, with the releases of "Moneyball," and now "The Sitter," and he's actually a likable and humble guy in real life.

So we have an actor who I kind of feel sorry for, actually kind of enjoy in real life scenarios, yet can not stand to watch on screen.

Pair this with the conundrum that is director David Gordon Green, whose early career is filled with some astoundingly beautiful and heartfelt films, like "George Washington" and "All the Real Girls," but who has recently turned to directing a series of pretty stupid and unmemorable comedies, including "The Pineapple Express" and "Your Highness."

But even those two strikes don't necessarily doom a film to failure. Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing redeemable about "The Sitter."

Heavier Jonah Hill stars as Noah, a twentysomething slacker who lives with his mother and gives regular oral sex to a girl named Marisa, (Ari Graynor), who he'd like to think is his girlfriend, but who is really just using him for his oral sex skills. (This bit opens the film. Do not think because there are kids in this that it is in any way an appropriate movie for children.)

He gets roped into babysitting a trio of kids because this is the movies, and in the movies, parents will leave their kids with anyone. One of the kids is a high-strung tween boy with anxiety issues. Another is a young girl who wants to be a celebutante, and paints her face with bad make-up while singing dirty rap songs. The third kid is the family's adopted Hispanic son, who enjoys fire and setting off bombs in toilets.

"Girlfriend" Marisa promises Noah a night of sex if he will pick up some coke and meet her at a party, so Noah packs up the kids in the family minivan--despite having a suspended license for a DUI--and the quartet head to Manhattan. Of course, the coke deal goes bad, and eventually Noah and the kids are being chased by a drug dealer played by Sam Rockwell.

It seems like director Green thinks that by being raunchier, "The Sitter" will somehow surpass other more family-friendly babysitter movies like "Adventures In Babysitting" and "Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead." But the movie goes both too far, and not far enough.

The situations Noah and the kids find themselves in are nothing we haven't been seen before. Crazed and eccentric drug dealers who WANT THEIR MONEY BACK; the black gang that hates on the white boy at first, but then respects him; the babysitter who hates kids, but then teaches them valuable life lessons.

There's even an exploding bag of cocaine. At least in "A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas" when the coke exploded, the kid actually got high. "The Sitter" doesn't have such balls.

And because there is nothing really funny here, most of the time one is just left thinking that Noah is nothing but an asshole for putting these kids in such danger. "The Sitter" doesn't go far enough into the realm of dark comedy to be anything but an unpleasant viewing experience about an exceedingly unlikable guy put in charge of some seriously messed-up kids who could all use some attention from a good child psychologist.

My only hope is that this will completely flop, forcing Jonah Hill to take on more roles like his stint in "Moneyball," and director David Gordon Green to either go back to the dramas he does well, or at least find a comedy that is actually, you know, funny.

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