There are few movie sub-genres more predictable than the babysitting comedy. The sitter, usually reluctant, arrives at the house, meets the kids, who are all uniquely troublesome, sends the parents off, and then proceeds to take the kids out of the house on some wild, irresponsible, and dangerous errand. This type of movie only succeeds on its details and its jokes. Jonah Hill’s new movie, The Sitter, hasn’t thought out the former and doesn’t have enough of the latter.
Noah Griffith (Hill) is on suspension from college, and is just hanging around the house spinning his wheels. Self-absorbed and lazy, he doesn’t want anything to do with babysitting the neighbours’ kids, but takes the job anyway in order to let his mother go out on a date. The Padulla children are over-indulged products of modern culture: Slater (Max Records) has an anxiety problem and a fanny pack full of medication, Blithe (Landry Bender) idolizes the celebutante lifestyle a la Paris Hilton and the Kardashian Sisters, and Rodrigo, the foster-kid from El Salvador, has a chip on his shoulder, an overactive bladder, and a fascination with explosives. Things don’t start well, and they’re about to get worse.
Noah’s pseudo-girlfriend, Marisa (Ari Graynor) calls from a party and wants him to come out. Up to now, Noah has been, um, performing certain bedroom services for her, and now she’s ready to finally return the favour, which is all the reason Noah needs to bundle the kids into the family minivan and go for a drive. And oh, Marisa asks, could he just stop off on the way and pick up a little cocaine?
Suspension of disbelief is a necessity if you’re watching The Sitter. Yes, the babysitting comedy requires that the main character drag his charges into one crazy situation after another. But this movie is so focused on finding the extremes of those situations that it often comes off as desperate and artificial. Is Noah really willing to put the kids in danger when the inevitable conflict with the drug dealer erupts? And if so, how can we take him seriously in the film’s quiet moments, when he tries to help the kids with the secrets that are driving their behaviour? Maybe the parent in me is too inflexible, but I don’t think you can have it both ways. Too many things happen here simply because they have to happen for the story to exist, and that kills the comedy.
There are positives. Hill (who also executive produces) sticks to what he’s best at, and manages to make a believable character out of Noah. Sam Rockwell is mildly amusing as the world’s friendliest violent drug dealer. And despite those awkward quiet moments, the script moves efficiently, though with the movie’s running time being shorter than this review, it has to.
In the end, The Sitter tries too hard to be funny, without much success. If you’re a teenager or a Jonah Hill fan, you’ll probably have already decided to see it. If you’re paying for your own babysitter, however, get your money’s worth – go see something else.
Tags: movie review