Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Sitter - 2011

"The Sitter" - 2011
Dir. by David Gordon Green - 1 hr. 21 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

Well, I've definitely seen worse movies.  If that sounds like faint praise for "The Sitter," then I have nailed the tone that I had set out to nail.  There are indeed a million movies less funny than "The Sitter," but there are also many, many films that are better as well.

If I had to explain it, I'd say that "The Sitter" is like the neutered cousin of "Cyrus."  It's the same set-up, sort of.  Jonah Hill plays Noah Griffith, a guy who has failed his way out of school and back onto his single mother's couch.  His mother (Jessica Hecht) even has a slight resemblance to Marissa Tomei, who played his mom in "Cyrus."  But instead of getting territorial about his mom, Noah gets pressured into babysitting a trio of kids so that his mom can try to hit it off with a doctor.  Everyone seems to know that this is a bad idea from the beginning, but they all let this happen anyways.  Despite the fact that the kids are comprised of a celebutante-wannabe (Landry Bender), a pyromaniac foster child (Kevin Hernandez) and a pilled-up bundle of nerves (Max Records), things probably would go smoothly if everyone just stays home and minds their own business.  Of course, that doesn't happen.  Noah's "girlfriend" (I put that in quotes, and it's apparent why from the opening scene of the movie) lures him out to buy her cocaine with the promise of finally having sex with him.  So Noah hits the town, kids in tow.

The main thing that handicaps this film is that while you're supposed to dread the idea of Noah babysitting your children, he's fairly likable.  Over the course of the one night, he basically fixes each of the children's behavioral problems.  This presents a problem: the usual story in this situation is that the kids eventually break through the toughie's facade.  But at no point did I feel like they went far enough to make Noah truly awful enough to make his eventual redemption worthwhile.  And he's not portrayed as being any kind of threat to the children, they all almost immediately get the better of him.  Even when Noah is doing genuinely bad things (like robbing a bat mizvah, for instance), the negative aspect of it is tampered by him re-connecting with a girl that he went to school with.  When he does bad things, it ends up well for him, which might make viewers jealous or envious, but it doesn't do much to establish that he's supposed to be the problem that needs solving over the course of the movie.

I just feel like this movie was afraid to take things to a place with genuine menace, which is bizarre, considering it pulled an R-rating anyways.  "The Sitter" earned that rating, but if you're already in that territory, why not really go for the jugular?  The one thing that was both awesome and oddly disturbing was Noah's initial meeting with Karl (Sam Rockwell), the coke dealer.  Between the roller-skating door-man and the bizarre collection of body-builders seemingly filling every corner of the building, it's a truly disturbing scene (and not for any specific reason - the whole thing is just bizarre, and really good comedy as well).  That's the one scene in the film that suggests that "The Sitter" could have been a much funnier movie.

I have a hard time getting mad about a film like this.  It's a missed opportunity, to be sure, but there are a few laughs here, and it really wasn't aiming to a very high bar to begin with.  It would have been better for everyone involved if it had been better, but what "The Sitter" is is a mildly-funny comedy.  If you like watching Jonah Hill, you'll get through it quickly and largely painlessly, and also with the awareness that he's done better work.  If you don't like Hill, what are you doing reading a review of one of his movies?  It's not like there's much else to draw people in, here.

2 / 5 - Theatre

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