THE SITTER Review
At the risk of spoiling its sole redeeming feature, The Sitter contains a lovely scene in which the titular character, played by Jonah Hill, encourages another to accept being gay. It's a positive message, played by Hill from his heart with a blunt mixture of earnest encouragement and profane humor.
Aside from that, however, the movie is an endless exercise in crudity for its own sake, the kind of thing where a little girl singing along to a rap song and saying "fuuck!" is considered the height of hilarity. The opening scene catches Noah Griffith (Hill) orally pleasuring his supposed girlfriend Marisa (Ari Graynor), who declines to return the favor and ushers him quickly out the door.
It's probably meant to be an "Oh, snap!" moment, establishing that Noah is a good-hearted dude who puts the interests of others ahead of his own, even when its to his own detriment. Instead, it feels like an excuse for a little dirty talk, a sex scene with no exposed private parts that nonetheless immediately demands an R-rating, and reassures any youngsters who have snuck in that the movie is naughty and rebellious, when it's anything but.
The Sitter baldly borrows (or possibly outright steals) its premise, plot, and several of its individual episodes directly from Adventures in Babysitting, the 1987 comedy written by David Simkins and directed by Chris Columbus. For all I know, an unacknowledged payment was made and an agreement reached not to mention the source material in the credits, but the stories are too similar to ignore.
Noah reluctantly helps out his single mother by accepting a babysitting job for her so she can go out on a long-awaited date. (He's a good-hearted dude, remember?) After he meets the three kids he's supposed to watch and settles down to kill time, Marisa calls, offering sex and, oh, asking if he can please pick up some cocaine along the way?
College-aged Noah is horny, so he agrees, packing up the kids for a night of kraaaazy adventures in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
The kids are miniature caricatures: the little girl is allowed to wear goth make-up and talks like a grown-up brat, her older brother is an anxious boy who is stiff and dressed nicely, and their adopted brother comes from El Salvador and likes to break nice things and blow up toilets.
In search of cocaine, Noah winds up on the bad side of Karl (Sam Rockwell), a major drug dealer, and is driven to desperate measures to pay him back for losses incurred by the disgruntled adopted boy. The situation spirals out of control, hijinks ensue, and lessons are learned.
For a movie that trades so heavily on bad behavior, delighting in trying to provoke and offend, there's a surprising amount of heavy-handed moralizing that's delivered. After Noah presents his message in defense of gay rights, his adventures in babysitting take on a weightier tone. Evidently we're meant to see that Noah is not enjoying any of the debauchery, that he's present simply to do the right thing and get the kids home safe.
After he pays back the murderous drug dealer and feeds his girlfriend cocaine and maybe gets laid, of course.
Director David Gordon Green made four critically-praised independent dramas before turning out the stoner comedies Pineapple Express (as a change of pace) and Your Highness (as a dream project with his college friend Danny McBride). The Sitter continues a disappointing, downward trend. If Green wants to continue working in the studio system, that's fine, but he needs to aim a little higher if he wants to satisfy anyone other than undemanding frat boys whose taste has been determined by the amount of alcohol they've imbibed.
Humor is subjective, of course, but I didn't laugh once. I don't doubt that some people will find The Sitter funny, but as a movie, it's a dud, a complete misfire.
The Sitter opens wide across the U.S. today.