Movie Review: “The Sitter”

Written by Alicia Kaiser December 21, 2011

Don’t hire a sitter for The Sitter. All jokes aside, this movie blows.

For the last time in his career (maybe), The Sitter features Jonah Hill in all of his pudginess. I never held anything against big ‘ol Jonah. I personally dig the Hill – he’s got a crude sense of humor that just gets me – but his most recent comedy adventure is nothing if not disappointing. I’ll admit that I tried to be open-minded about The Sitter: I might be surprised. I might be delighted, I hoped. I might have something to throw back at all the hatin’. But in the end, I had nothing. The disenchantment began even before I entered the theatre.

As the doorman tore my ticket stub he looked at the title and then up at me with utter sadness on his face. “I’m sorry, miss,” he muttered. “I think this movie is total crap. You’re the first person to watch it all week. Our theatre is actually losing money by showing it.” I giggled nervously at him and then shuffled into Theatre Number One where I literally had the whole room to myself. It was just going to be Jonah and me tonight; an awkward evening of judgment, forced laughs – although there were, I admit, a few genuine ones – and ultimate confusion. Overall, this movie tries to be so many things at once – raunchy, accessible, endearing and fast-paced with a hint of thrilling – that it comes across as unnatural, stifling… and even a little bit racist.

Too raunchy to be the next Adventures in Babysitting, yet too recycled to be the next Superbad, The Sitter is problematic to say the least. Jonah Hill is Noah Griffith; a twenty-something college dropout who moves back home to freeload off of his single mom (Jessica Hecht). Noah’s got a “girlfriend” named Marisa (Ari Graynor) – though their relationship is completely one-sided, as Marisa is still largely preoccupied with her ex, among other thing(s) (spoiler: it’s cocaine).

Noah’s adventures in babysitting begin when his mom asks if he will mind the neighbors’ kids so that they (the Pedulas) can take her to a party and set her up with a single doctor. Noah reluctantly agrees so that his lonely mom can go on a date, since it is absolutely the least he can do. At the Pedulas,’ Noah’s burdens include Slater (Max Records), a 13-year-old anxiety-riddled, pill-popping basket case, Blithe (Landry Bender), Slater’s celebrity-obsessed, make-up-crazed little sister and their adopted brother Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez), a sociopathic, bomb-enthused, pajama-wearing devil.

Everything is in radical extremes in this movie – I felt like the characters were so static that I was being force fed conventions of excess – almost like a spoof of the babysitting motif? If that is even a thing? First off, the three kids are absolutely insane; the stuff even a prized nanny would dread. Rodrigo, especially, is so implausibly evil that his terrorizing loses its appeal very quickly – you don’t feel sympathetic to the fact that he is deeply troubled and just needs some help – no, the kid is a dick. Second, the progression from bad to worse to nightmare escalates so quickly that all of the characters the gang meets along the way come across as entirely farfetched.

Though instructed specifically not to leave the house, Noah gets a call from Marisa that she would like him to come to a party and bring some cocaine for her that he can retrieve from the unknown “Karl” (Sam Rockwell). NOAH IS BABYSITTING THREE CHILDREN! WHO, BUT A FOOL, WOULD COMMIT TO THIS!? Obviously he agrees and bad things ensue; resulting in Noah and his wards’ lives being endangered by an extremely sensitive, bipolar, loose cannon of a drug-dealer. Sam Rockwell’s character was actually kind of a delight. We meet him as Noah stumbles into his compound, where Karl is infusing dinosaur eggs with coke and in the background a clan of steroid-soaked bodybuilders are doing renovations to the Pina Colada song. What? It’s intriguing, right? I just wish Karl had been given an opportunity to have his character better developed – he had a lot of potential. He seems more like your fixed, bumbling brute than a character worthy of the role of main adversary; though all of the scenes including him were in fact the most enjoyable in the film.

I think one of the worst qualities that The Sitter has is its genuine attempt to be moving. Like the dramedies that Judd Apatow has perfected (the ideal mix of hilariousness and real character building), director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) picks up a script that has been done too many times to be poignant. I’ll admit, there are some character qualities in Noah that are genuine – how he allows himself to be used by his girlfriend to suppress loneliness is both sad and believable – but the flow with which the story progresses does not mesh with the flow of the emotional development that seems to be occurring. The audience is just being assaulted by development without any true catalyst.

For example, once Noah gets over his selfish ploys to get laid by his ridiculous girlfriend, he realizes, somehow, that he actually has the potential to help these kids. Though far from any sort of authority on life, he manages to get through to each of the kids individually to sort out their issues. It’s a little bit cute, I’ll admit, but it makes no sense that they would trust him in the first place! If my babysitter almost got me murdered by coke dealers the first time I met him, the last thing I would be doing is opening up to him about my deepest fears, hopes and dreams. No, sir!

Also, there is this whole underlying plot thread about Noah getting involved with a gang of black thugs that I don’t even want to get into. The whole thing is just awful and everyone is speaking in horrible clichés: “Tears before fears, bro, chyeah”. I just can’t!

Overall, I was expecting more from David Gordon Green – I mean, I really loved Your Highness despite general consensus – I thought he was capable of pulling off something awkward yet awesome, contrived yet lovable. Deep down, I really thought Jonah could help craft this shapeless amoeba of a plot into at least a mildly enjoyable experience – I was ready for a ringer. Although, not The Ringer, which is a whole other mess altogether. I don’t even have the energy anymore to obliterate this movie, which I have building up to this whole review. I am exhausted from just thinking about it for this long – it’s just not worth it. The movie is just bad, guys. It’s just really that bad.

My Rating: 3/10 

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About Alicia Kaiser

Alicia Kaiser

Alicia Kaiser: University student; Movie enthusiast; Nerd. She enjoys reading, writing, partaking in shenanigans and making sweet crafts. Currently, she is simultaneously employed by and a student at the University of Victoria. While she moseys towards her degree with Major in English Literature and a Minor in Professional Writing, she can be found in UVic Marketing doing cool, grown-up stuff. For Alicia, watching movies is comparable to (if not more important than), eating, sleeping and physical activity. Her reviews are full of passion, pizzazz, analysis, and introspection. Enjoy.

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