Title: The Sitter
Directed By: David Gordon Green
Starring: Jonah Hill, Max Records, Landry Bender, Kevin Hernandez, Ari Graynor, Sam Rockwell, Kylie Bunbury, Erin Daniels, D.W. Moffett, Jessica Hecht
Just because a movie’s a comedy, doesn’t mean it can only be a comedy and often, it’s quite nice to get a little heart with your laughs. However, if you try to infuse your funny film with emotion and fail, the feature becomes laughable, and not in the way you originally intended. On top of being structurally unsound and lacking in the humor department, The Sitter veers further off track in a desperate attempt at giving the final product a serious side it doesn’t deserve.
Noah Griffith is a jobless 20-something who lives with his single mother, Sandy (Jessica Hecht). When an opportunity arises for her to go to a benefit gala with some friends, the Pedullas (Erin Daniels and D.W. Moffett), who’d like to introduce her to a new guy, she’s thrilled. Problem is, the Pedullas’ babysitter cancels at the last minute and there’s no way they can leave their three young children home alone for the sake of Sandy’s love life. A reluctant Noah to the rescue! Noah steps up to the plate, rides his bike over to the Pedullas’ and agrees to babysit Slater, Blithe and Rodrigo (Max Records, Landry Bender and Kevin Hernandez).
It doesn’t take long for Noah to realize that he’s got his hands full. Slater has self-proclaimed “issues” and walks around with a fanny pack full of pills, Blithe is celebrity obsessed and has a face caked full of makeup, and Rodrigo, the family’s recent adoptee, has a thing for cherry-bombing toilets. Regardless, Noah’s hormones obscure his senses enough to make him think it’s a good idea to pack up the kids, load them into their parents’ forbidden minivan, pick up some cocaine and then deliver it to his so-called girlfriend (Ari Graynor) at a wild party. It’ll all be okay as long as the kids are in bed by 1:00am, right? Sure.
The Sitter has a lot going for it in terms of the basic premise of the piece and the particularly colorful characters. The quintessential non-babysitter is thrown into a situation with three exceptionally offbeat kids. Insert Jonah Hill as the anti-sitter and three talented child actors as his little ones, and you’ve got an opportunity brimming with potential.
Yes, Hill is the ideal candidate to portray Noah, the problem is, the character isn’t fleshed out much at all. He’s simply the unemployed loser and nothing more. Beyond the individuals he meets throughout the night, the only non-child or parental figure we ever see him interact with is his oral buddy, Marisa (Graynor), who treats him like garbage and is never willing to return the favor. Not only is Marisa incredibly annoying, but she further pigeonholes Noah in that painfully one-dimensional description. Just barely beyond that, we see that Noah’s lazy, loves his mom and doesn’t care much for babysitting; other than that, there’s not much to him.
The kids run into the same problem; they’re great characters in general, but writers Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka never make use of all their potential. Rodrigo’s cherry bombing habit and sour attitude is amusing at first, but ultimately, that’s all we get from him. The same is true of Blithe and Slater who stick close to their stereotypes, but, in their cases, they’ve got far more dialogue to work with, giving Records and Bender the chance to show off what their capable of – which is quite a bit.
It seems as though Gatewood and Tanaka were aware of the need to go beyond the film’s shtick, but their attempts at infusing drama and emotion are rather ill placed and, at times, unearned. However, beyond the quick clean-up jobs done with Noah’s relationships with Blithe, Rodrigo and his out-of-the-blue potential romance, Roxanne (Kylie Bunbury), performances manage to save poor script structuring. Records nails the sulky teen and then takes his character a step further through his chemistry with Hill. The two have a breakthrough moment that, while it may be a little too big for this type of film, still manages to evoke some emotion. Hill also proves he’s capable of just about anything by stepping into what’s supposed to be one of The Sitter’s most trying moments and basically makes something out of nothing. There’s mention of Noah’s unfaithful father early on in the film, but he only makes one appearance – during this big emotional moment. Never having seen the guy before, it’s nearly impossible to be effected by him in the least, but Hill singlehandedly controls what should have been a two-person scene, carrying the moment all on his own.
Then there’s the bad guys. Sure, the comedy genre allows for a few coincidences, but The Sitter has one too many, and they’re all a bit too obvious. First, Noah winds up in a children’s clothing store and, after one employee questions what he’s doing standing in the little girls’ underwear department, another one comes over and joins the fight and she happens to have gone to high school with Noah. Cue some ridiculous and ultimately meaningless story about how Noah once puked on her grandmother’s ashes and we get villain #1. Then there’s Sam Rockwell’s Karl who’s some sort of bodybuilding obsessed drug dealer who’s way over the top and, sadly, not all that funny. He merely performs your typical crazy dealer shtick; via mishaps, Noah loses his drugs, Karl gets mad and demands lots of money in return or he’ll kill Noah. Minus his army of steroid-loaded lackies, we’ve seen it all before.
Is The Sitter all that funny? No, not really. Does that mean it’s not worth seeing? No, not really. It’s a harmless comedy that lets you put your mind on cruise control as it whips you around from ludicrous bit to bit, trying to pack in every gag possible resulting in a piece that’s not all that funny, but mildly enjoyable.