Noah Griffith (Jonah Hill) is a good hearted slacker in a very one sided relationship. When his mother’s future happiness relies on him babysitting for three children, Jonah reluctantly agrees. Little does he realise that this simple job will lead to car theft, crashing a Bat Mitzvah and a confrontation with a very changeable drug dealer, Karl (Sam Rockwell).
Does anyone remember the 1980s movie Adventures in Babysitting, starring Elisabeth Shue? Well it is hard to imagine that The Sitter is not inspired by this 80s classic. Noah starts off well, but the night soon dissolves into chaos as he tries to keep track of three kids, whose issues make his evening very complicated. OK, so it is not exactly the same story, but there are definitely similarities there.
Jonah Hill has made a career for himself by playing… Jonah Hill. Each of his characters end up being the same; awkward guys who are desperate to either be left alone or fit in… Depending on the movie. The Sitter is no different, every line is given the typical Jonah Hill delivery and his good nature means that he is trampled on. This is not always a bad thing, but at this stage we have seen the same performance from Hill several times over, so it is beginning to get boring.
The kids provide the tension, and some of the comic relief. Max Records from Where The Wild Things Are is all grown up (well, 14) and the demons he is struggling with are more to do with his sexuality than actual Wild Things. He is fine in the role, but he is given little room to be anything other than paranoid and scared. Landry Bender is cute as the highly sexualised Blithe, but Kevin Hernando falls into stereotypes that border on racist, with his portrayal of the adopted sibling Rodrigo. The kids are endearing, and they are the ones that have the most character progression, but the film manages to brush them aside at important moments – by leaving them in cars/outside bars etc – and is poorer for it.
Sam Rockwell appears to have fun as the slightly crazed drug dealer, Karl. His constant mood changes and search for his 8th best friend are just zany enough to work. All of the supporting characters are more caricatures than anything else, but Rockwell manages to give his character a little depth… but only a little.
Director David Gordon green has made a career out of stoner comedies including Pineapple Express, Your Highness and the admittedly great TV show Eastbound and Down, so The Sitter is nothing new for him and probably does not present much of a challenge. Sadly the script and the pacing let the film down.
The movie jumps from set piece to set piece and while this starts off as enjoyable, it quickly starts to grate. The kids are irritating pretty much from the get go, and there appears to be no letting up and Noah simply cannot catch a break. Every time things go right, something immediately goes wrong. We have all had days like this, but in movie terms it gets pretty old, pretty quickly. Screaming obscenities at kids – and having them scream them right back – is a plot device that runs out of steam fast, and the film simply lacks those laugh out loud moments, although the resolution is kind of sweet. The film actually runs rather like Date Night, and each situation is more ludicrous than the last.
In all, The Sitter is not as bad as it looks, but with a few script revisions, less set pieces and a different running time – longer would have actually been preferable, to allow the characters to develop, rather than bounce from one scene to the next – The Sitter could have been a whole lot better.