Fox // 2011 // 81 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // April 9th, 2012
Need a Sitter?
David Gordon Green's Hollywood resume is quickly growing, but the quality of his movies seems to be deteriorating equally as fast. Green's career as a filmmaker took off with the critically acclaimed All the Real Girls and peaked with the success of the hilarious stoner comedy Pineapple Express, but his last couple of big-screen outings didn't exactly score big in terms of positive reviews and box-office success. Your Highness crashed and burned despite an intriguing cast that includes Natalie Portman and Danny McBride, and Green's most recent comedy, The Sitter, starring Jonah Hill, came and went before it had a chance to leave a mark. While this flick about a night of babysitting gone wrong boasts a few amusing moments light enough to provoke a few smiles, its utterly brainless plot and shallow characters don't leave much room for noteworthy big-screen excellence.
In terms of story, think of The Sitter as a version of Pineapple Express for a younger audience. This would probably make more sense if the film's content actually were appropriate for kids, but with a R rating for drug material, violence, and other pervasive and crude material, The Sitter only caters to older cinemagoers willing to sit through yet another wannabe comedy about a babysitter struggling with foul-mouthed children. That's really all this flick has to offer. That, and the presence of silly drug lords trying to chase down our "innocent" protagonist. We've seen it all before, folks, so need to get too excited.
Still, for those wondering what exactly Jonah Hill is up to in this movie, here's what you need to know, in a nutshell: Hill plays Noah, a delusional slacker who thinks he's got a real shot with his "girlfriend," just because he's great at oral sex. Too dumb to realize she's just taking advantage of him, Noah goes above and beyond to cater to her every needs, even if that means going on a spontaneous drug run while he's busy watching his neighbor's hyperactive kids. A full minivan and a few misadventures later, Noah and the kids find themselves on the run from an evil criminal (Sam Rockwell, Moon) threatening to destroy their lives. Convinced?
Clocking in at a mere 81 minutes, The Sitter benefits from a fast-paced plot that avoids big moments of boredom and generally makes it pretty easy for viewers to sit through the whole thing without too many complaints about wasted time. That said, this is by far not the brilliant comedy we would like it to be. Green sure tries hard enough to make viewers enjoy this thing, but Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka's script overflows with unnecessary absurdities and dreadful clichés no one sane should appreciate. Starting off as a raunchy comedy and adding an element of action along the way, the film eventually resorts to wrapping its storyline with heartfelt meaning and late character development in a desperate effort to cover up its lack of a satisfying ending. After an hour, it becomes pretty apparent The Sitter has nowhere concrete to go, resulting in a sappy finish orchestrated to teach Noah a lesson about life and injecting him with just enough wisdom to connect with the kids he was supposed to babysit but ended up taking along on his drug errands.
This is just a few of the absurdities you'll come across in this movie, and it all starts with the kids. For a film about an incompetent babysitter to generate laughs, it is obvious the kids have to have odd personalities. Here, the screenwriters unsuccessfully try to take this requirement over the top, pitting Noah against a young boy wrestling with his sexuality, a little brat who wears way too much makeup all the time, and an adopted Hispanic boy who lives in the basement and has a thing for explosives. Yes, each of these kids have serious problems, and, as expected, the film's predictable story assures the main protagonist, the slacker, will eventually help these resolves their issues. It's formulaic and predictable at best.
The remaining questions then, has to do with the humor: Is this a funny comedy? The short answer to this one would be a big no. Terribly raunchy and filled with vulgar dialogue that could and should be hilarious but isn't, Green's film lacks laughs and big surprises. Essentially, it lacks everything that made Pineapple Express such a fantastic raunch-fest. The language Noah and the kids use isn't particularly inspiring or funny, and the subplot involving the wannabe badass drug lords turns out to be way too conventional and harmless. We're adults expecting an adult comedy; it's okay to take some risks. Sadly, The Sitter plays it safe.
Hill is a gifted actor who can take on many diverse roles, but this one does not differ in the least bit from some of his other recent characters. For Hill, the role of Noah enables him to switch on autopilot and just blabber back any lines he's allowed to work with. To be honest, most of the material isn't that memorable. Rockwell stars as New York City's drug king; although his character is anything but threatening, he does shine in some of the film's few highlights. The kids -- Max Records, Kevin Hernandez and Landry Bender -- show no remorse when it comes to delivering solid profanities, but despite their annoying characters, they show off decent acting chops.
On DVD, The Sitter looks pretty good. The disc offer the theatrical and unrated versions of the film, but the difference between the two isn't huge at all. It boasts more crude language mostly, but you won't have to worry about too much additional footage. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer boasts a decent picture quality, equipped with strong vibrancy and colors, even in the film's many darker scenes (the story takes place over the course of a single night). In the audio department, you'll come across a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround transfer. Extras on the disc include a funny gag reel and a few boring featurettes.
It may not be his worst film to date, but David Gordon Green's The Sitter doesn't even come close to the awesomeness of Pineapple Express. It's watchable, but only if you approach it with meager expectations. This isn't deserving of a spot in the category of this year's memorable comedies, but I will take Jonah Hill over folks like Vin Diesel or Jackie Chan as a clueless babysitter any day!
Review content copyright © 2012 Franck Tabouring; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 81 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Gag Reel