“ Genre: Comedy / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: David Gordon Green / Actors: Jonah Hill, Sam Rockwell, Ari Graynor, Miriam McDonald, Erin Daniels ... / Blu-ray released 2012-05-14 at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment / Features of the Blu-ray: Letterboxed „
So with all this excitement currently being generated around the Oscar nominations, I instead decided to stay in and watch this instead, a worthwhile tactic if only to avoid the art house crowd who tend to flock out on mass to see whatever the academy says they should be watching. Something I find almost as irritating as those folks who pop up in TV spots for films with their little one sentence opinions on the film, something which is usually the quickest way to make me not want to see your movie. Still this latest film of the former portly funny man Jonah Hill, who has around the time of the films release slimmed down dramatically and and seemed to have the appearance of a Willy Wonka's Augustus Gloop after he got sucked through the pipes, providing a seemingly constant source of fascination for some members of the critical community, as every interview I saw around the time frequently was more focused on his weight loss than the film he was promoting.
Following in the long standing tradition of questionable babysitters, a genre long having been run into the ground and having first started back in the 80's with "Adventures in Babysitting" and "Uncle Buck", with the years following providing a number of questionable attempts to capture the fun of these early misadventures from "Don't Tell Mom The Babysitters Dead" through to more recent efforts like "Just Go With It" and "The Pacifier". Now Jonah Hill steps up to the babysitting challenge as slacker Noah, a college dropout whose only goal in life it would seem is trying to get into his continually demanding girlfriend of sorts Marissa (Ari Graynor) knickers. Still having been guilt tripped by his dotting mother into babysitting for her friend's kids it's only a matter of time before things start to go wrong, especially when Noah sets off on a quest in the city to score cocaine for Marissa (Ari Graynor).
As to be expected the terrible trio of kids, Noah finds in his care are the usual bunch of child crazies, comprising of neurotic 13 year old Slater (Max Records), his adopted brother Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez) whose sole loves in life are playing with explosives and his frequent attempts at running away, the latter causing him to now be tagged permanently with a GPS tracker, while the youngest Blithe (Landry Bender) is a celebrity obsessed poppet, an obsession which causes her to cake herself in make up while developing some serious delusions on what celebrity really is.
So having introduced Noah to the trio, it's really only a matter of time before things start to go wrong, for we are only just past the individual kids taking their shots at Noah, before his supposed girlfriend is phoning him up to score cocaine for her, a plot device I really had to question in terms of taste. I mean when did it become so socially acceptable for characters to be snorting cocaine? Has pot become so mainstream and socially acceptable that it has bumped cocaine into the spot of acceptable party drug of choice? What I guess is more concerning is were this leads things next. Are we going to soon see characters shooting up heroin or whipping out crack pipes?
Still having set this questionable quest for Noah, he is soon packing the kids into the family minivan and heading for the city, were we are soon introduced to possibly the most fun character in the film with Sam Rockwell's drug dealer Karl, who clearly can't decide between dealing in steroids or cocaine especially as he surrounds himself with muscle bound goliaths who when not preparing the product are seen frequently working out and while it is setup that Karl is gay, the film never actually bothers to clarify is persuasion, though it is Rockwell's performance here which provides the majority of the laughs in the film, especially when his mood swings frequently take him from being your best friend to a complete psycho only add to his frequently unpredictable presence which makes you never sure if he's going to hug you or shoot you and surprisingly makes for a more than suitable antagonist.
Hill here is not exactly branching out with his performance as this once again sees him brings his usual slacker chic to the role, giving it an overwhelming feeling of familiarity, which will be either a good thing or a bad one, depending on what you made of his earlier appearances as this is essentially giving more of the same Jonah which we saw in "Superbad" and "Get Him To The Greek" with only the surroundings and situation being really the only things which have changed. Overall he brings his usual fun energy to the role, though for the detractors it is doubtful that they will be changing their opinion of him with this film, or will it make it any the more clearer on how he managed to pick up his Oscar nomination (much less why both Tilda Swindon and Ryan Gosling missed out on nominations), especially when the film opens with him going down on Marissa while bringing a whole new spin to the plot of "ET" and essentially setting the tone for the rest of the film.
Still despite the slightly dubious message that doing cocaine is a perfectly cool thing to be doing, Hill still manages to bring a lot of heart to the character of Noah, as he helps guides each of their kids through their various issues be it the falseness of celebrity or that blowing up bathrooms is probably not the best vocation in life. Yet more surprisingly heart warming is the scene in which *SPOILER ALERT* Noah helps Slater deal with his neuroticism and surprisingly makes the ballsy decision to have Noah assuring him that there is no shame in being gay, something which really came as a shock for a mainstream movie and while this was perhaps not the best film to tackle the image, especially when Noah is listing the benefits as stereotypically smelling nice and having great fashion sense, but it's still miles ahead of other mainstream movies which tend to skirt around such issues, let alone openly say "You know what, there is no shame in being gay!" *SPOILER ALERT OVER*.
Were the film really suffers though is with how ludicrous it frequently becomes in places with some of the situations being blown completely out of proportion, especially when Noah is never seen having to pay for any of his transgressions which include trashing the family minivan and ripping off his absent fathers diamond store. Meanwhile attempts to add emotional depth to the film frequently fail, much like a much discussed geo-magnetic storm which ultimately comes to nothing. Still this heavy mixture of violence, profanity and smoltz makes for frequently uneven viewing at best and while it has it's moments it is probably one left for a night of dumb movie viewing, which is how it's best enjoyed and as such probably best waiting for the DVD release rather than paying out the over inflated price of a cinema ticket.
Watching The Sitter threw up some sort of weird space time paradox black hole. Jonah Hill is really very chubby, well, very large. But it was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK this week and if you went to the cinema to watch 21 Jump Street recently, he has lost a huge amount of weight. So, you see, I watched the following films in said order. Get Him To The Greek, fat. Moneyball, fat. 21 Jump Street, very slim. The Sitter, really fat again. He must have some really serious dietary problems or the ability to jump around through time. That, or in the space of a couple of months between filming The Sitter and 21 Jump Street, Jonah went on a diet. That's most likely, but for now, a time travelling comedic actor is much more interesting.
As you can see, I'm clearly padding for words and there is a very good reason for this. The Sitter is rubbish. I was just trying to persuade you into reading this review by clearly writing the thoughts of a crazed fake film critic. But here's the thing. While you are a reader of Screen Demon, that clearly makes you a connoisseur of films and so are looking to read about the latest and the greatest. The Sitter is most certainly not going to win any awards, neither is it going to set any sort of sales records. But, watching a film like this and reading a review about it makes you appreciate the very best even more.
Think of this as a service to you, the discerning movie fan. If there were to be a constant stream of good films to review then things may become a little boring. How could we possibly appreciate the good if there were no bad. So what makes this in particular something to make you love The Artist, or Headhunters, or The Devil Inside (no, wait, that's not right..) even more?
Noah is a layabout who has no job and zero aspirations. As a favour to his mum (or should that be mom), he babysits a large posh family in the same neighbourhood. There are three kids and as we are introduced to each one, they are all handily outlandish characters, bordering on stereotypical. We have the geek who is not sociable and watches tennis on the television. Then there is the 4 year old lady, who is a bit of a bitch and a hip hop fan. Lastly, the immigrant Mexican who the family has fostered and is a trouble maker.
But, Noah wants to go to a party and buy drugs for his girlfriend, so he loads the children in a minivan and they go on an adventure. Along the way, we see the Hispanic kid plant a bomb and who is then later referred to as Bin Laden. Most jokes revolve around children saying unlikely things or swearing when at a young age. Until the overly gay drug den (surprisingly featuring Sam Rockwell) and then the jokes center around over the top gay men. Everything is unbelievable or distasteful or mostly both.
To cap it all off there is a scene whereby one one the characters finally realises he is gay and it is so over the top emotional. American comedies seemingly always have one of these life lessons in them at some point these days, but this is one the cheesiest.
In the end, The Sitter is simply boring. None the the jokes really pack a punch (a fat guy falling to the ground is nothing new) yet the film lacks any form of interesting narrative. It finds itself in no mans land, in between cringe worthy comedy and subtle laughs. The Sitter is not bad, but offering something this average and devoid of character means it slips into the bargain bin as opposed to the DVD shelf.
I saw this advertised for cinema release a while ago but wasn't particularly interested in watching it there so it rented the DVD when it came out. I wasn't expecting too much but find Jonah Hill can be amusing and easy to watch, so for that reason only really The Sitter was an okay, so-so kind of film.
This was directed by David Gordon Green, who has previously worked on Pineapple Express. We're introduced to a young man (presumably twenty something) named Noah, known for being a bit of a slacker, still living at home with his mum and not rushing to find a job. When his mum has to cancel a night out she was really looking forward to because her friend can't get a babysitter, an idea emerges. Noah could look after her friend's kids for the night so they can both still go out and enjoy some much-needed fun, especially as it involves a bit of a blind date scenario for Noah's mum. Not keen on the idea, but wanting his mum to have a good time, Noah reluctantly agrees. So we have the kid that doesn't look like he can even look after himself let alone a couple of children for the evening, and so we know things aren't going to go all too smoothly.
He heads over to his mum's friend's house and remembers what a stunner she is; not the 'average' mother, he's obviously thinking about anything but babysitting when he's busy checking her out. They take a quick tour of the house and the children, all of which have something 'quirky' about them. Without exception, however, they all seem like little monsters to Noah, who is quick to take up position on the couch to watch TV once the parents have left. He doesn't seem too fussed about entertaining them, especially as none of them seem very responsive to his minimal efforts at conversation. He is even less bothered when he gets a bit of a booty call from his 'girlfriend'. This is the girl that seems to like to receive more than give, and it's obvious the 'relationship' is very one sided. She's more of a party girl that will use people to get what she wants, and that's exactly what she does when she tells Noah about a party that night and how she wants him to pick her up some drugs.
I won't say much more on the premise except to say that the rest of the film is then basically a bit of a road trip as Noah drives around to find the drugs and then the party, where he can be the white knight for his girlfriend. But taking along the kids with him is proving difficult, and to say it's a 'disaster' would be an understatement. The question is, can Noah get out of the horrible mess he has gotten himself in to, what with quickly being chased by a dangerous, and very weird, druglord? What will happen with his girlfriend, and can he keep the kids safe during his shenanigans?
The premise is very simplistic and doesn't take much thought, considering this is a bit of a one-night-lots-of-disasters-going-down kind of flick. The events that unfold are about as believable as my boss deciding to give me two months off work paid leave for no reason. It has quite a teen movie feel to it and unfortunately doesn't carry the same weight as other flicks you may think at first are similar, or other films will Jonah Hill in them. The Sitter just falls short of witty humour and misses a trick when it comes to the premise because it becomes too silly to be a stand-out-from-the-crowd hit.
The kids all have something a bit off-kilter about them making them 'quirky', and each is very different. There's an 8 year old covering herself in make-up singing dirty songs and talking about how she wants to hook up in a club, a 13 year old boy so anxious at the thought of not taking his anxiety medication that he's a nervous wreck, and a 10 year old adopted boy with a passion for fire and bombs. The mix of these three kids, the irresponsible babysitter and a crazed drug lord let loose on the streets of New York at night is an obvious concoction for chaos.
This is very much one of those over-the-top in a stupid way kind of flicks. It's easy going and light, but the sheer stupidity and lack of believability can make it more difficult to watch unless you're in the right frame of mind. It's not something to be taken seriously, however there were a few moments where moral teachings started to creep in. For instance, despite a rocky start as the inexperienced babysitter, Noah does, by the end, start to connect with each kid and understand a little about why they are the way they are, offering some of his own gems of wisdom. Yes, it was cliché and I wasn't too keen on the ending either. It's quite run of the mill and there weren't exactly any surprises as to how things would eventually pan out.
As for the comedy genre, I don't think this really adds anything new and because it felt too childish, I don't see this becoming very popular. It's a shame because I had hoped for better, but that's not to say it was the worst comedy meets action meets drama that I've ever seen either.
The cast includes Jonah Hill (Noah Griffith), Landry Bender (Blithe, the girl with make-up issues), Ari Graynor (Marisa, the 'girlfriend'), Max Records (Slater, the high anxiety kid), Kevin Hernandez (Rodrigo, the adopted child with a passion for fire and bombs), and Sam Rockwell (Karl, drug lord) amongst others. Hill takes the limelight and is probably the main reason the film was just about watchable. I like his style and he's easy to watch, comical but down to earth, with a hint of seriousness and emotion behind the slapstick antics. The kids were very over the top, but each character was made quite memorable at least. As for the drug lord, Rockwell was a good choice for the weird psychotic, and he added a slight twist to the proceedings (even though it wasn't a believable one).
All in all, this film offers action, a bit of an emotional and moral undertone, and silly antics to keep you amused. However, it just wasn't what I had hoped for. Watch for Jonah Hill and something that doesn't require much thought, but don't expect anything less than silly and over the top.
DVD released 2012, rated Certificate 15.
Selling on Amazon for £11.40.