‘The Sitter’ slouches
A paint-by-numbers screenplay leads to rampant predictability
in the new Jonah Hill comedy, “The Sitter.”
Directed by David Gordon Green (“Your Highness”), whose work on HBO’s brilliant “Eastbound and Down” is edgy, boundary-pushing and outright hilarious, “The Sitter” proves that a director needs a solid writer, something Green’s missed in his last couple outings.
It’s not a bad movie, just instantly forgettable and painfully predictable. You know where it’s going and even how it’s going to get there, save for maybe a truly bizarre and actually funny scene with show-stealer Sam Rockwell (“Moon”).
“The Sitter” has a few shining moments, some of which are even laugh-out-loud funny, but combined with a forced sentimentality and direct-to-video-style plot points, it’s sub-par at best.
Right from the film’s graphic opening, you know what to expect, as newcomer writers Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka establish the typical Jonah Hill (“Superbad”) character archetype.
This time, Hill plays Noah Griffith, a college dropout with no job prospects, who lives with his single mother and suffers unrequited love from the self-centered Marisa (Ari Graynor, TV’s “Fringe”).
Noah’s mom (Jessica Hecht, “Sideways”) is being set up on a date, but her date-setter-upper’s babysitter cancels at the last minute. Guess who gets the job.
Now, Noah must contend with the eccentricities of three quirky kids – obviously closeted 13-year-old Slater (Max Records, “Where the Wild Things Are”), whose parents say he just suffers from severe anxiety; half-pint Blithe (Landry Bender, “The Council of Dads”), who slathers on makeup and hopes to be the next Lindsay Lohan; and 10-year-old Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez, “Expecting a Miracle”), an adopted Latino kid with a penchant for smugness and cherry bombs in toilets.
What’s to be done about it? Maybe an unexpected adventure that causes them to learn about each other, thus learning about themselves.
Conveniently enough, Noah gets a call from a drunk and frisky Marisa, who’s attending a party in Manhattan but, alas, is out of cocaine. She tells Noah she’ll finally sleep with him if he helps her out.
He jumps at the opportunity, gathering up the kids in their parents’ minivan, complete with obnoxious family stick figure sticker, and the group hits the streets.
Predictable gags ensue, with the exception of an uncomfortably hysterical scene with Sam Rockwell, who plays drug dealer Karl, a strange, hyperactive fellow who inexplicably surrounds himself with inline-skating loonies, ’roided out bodybuilders and men with sledgehammers tearing down walls.
It’s, perhaps, the film’s only unexpected scene, and the sheer lunacy of it all seems like something out of “Caligula.” Rockwell’s simply hilarious in this minor role, and his limited screen time works to “The Sitter’s” detriment.
Hill has some shining moments, as well, like his “Airplane”-esque jive talk with a pool hall denizen (touted mercilessly in the trailers). The kids also turn in surprisingly decent performances, but “The Sitter” runs its cast through the same old routine. We know where it’s going to end up, and it’s not blazing any new trails on the way.
Think 1987’s “Adventures in Babysitting” with raunch aplenty. It’s obvious “The Sitter” relishes its R rating, but Gordon doesn’t use it to any creative effect. He tries to combine perverse humor with sentimentality, i.e. the film’s attempt at character development, but doesn’t succeed. The result feels contrived, and with decidedly less Elisabeth Shue.
“The Sitter,” rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, drug material and some violence, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 8-B or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.