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3 reviews, 5 user ratings

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Sitter, The
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by Brett Gallman

"Adventures in babysitting and drug dealing."
4 stars

I’ll probably have to turn in my film geek card for admitting this, but I didn’t come to David Gordon Green by way of the films that made him a critical darling on the indie circuit. Instead, I know him mostly as the guy that unleashed “Pineapple Express” and “Eastbound and Down” upon the world (both of which in turn help to unleash Danny McBride, much to my eternal gratitude). Even when he dressed his brand of humor in period clothing and anachronistic cursing with “Your Highness,” it totally clicked for me. When this guy commits himself to a concept, he goes full bore and constructs just about the wackiest error-filled comedies out of them. So, suffice to say, the idea of him doing an R-rated riff on “Adventures in Babysitting” with Jonah Hill in the lead is fine by me.

Like many of Green’s protagonists, Noah (Hill) is a slacker and a loser; a college drop-out who still lives with his divorced mom, he’s somehow managed to score a tenuous relationship with a girl (said relationship consists of him going down on her, basically). One night, she uses the promise of sex (full-on vaginal, even) to convince him to score some cocaine; the only problem (besides the obvious illegality) is that he’s stuck babysitting three kids: the finicky, neurotic Slater (Max Records), the unruly, dolled-up-beyond-her-years Blithe (Landry Bender), and the adopted Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez), a slick-haired preteen that’s bounced from various foster families, probably because he has a penchant for explosions.

Noah can’t resist the call, so he willingly puts these kids in mortal danger, running afoul of drug dealers and, eventually, the police (remarkably, that doesn’t happen until late in the evening). And yes, the basic joke here is that Jonah Hill swears and acts like a degenerate in the presence of young kids, but it’s a joke that’s told rather well. I think you have to be pretty smart to cook up something that manages to take something so stupid and make it work, and the script is mostly air-tight. There’s not really much fat on it, and everything eventually feeds into one gag or another. For example, when Noah finds himself in bar mostly populated by African-Americans and earns some street-cred, it eventually pays off (and like many of the films payoffs, it ends with a guy getting beaten to a pulp).

However, the main characters aren’t merely vessels that get transported from one funny situation to another; Hill might be playing the same character he usually plays (read: vulgar but good-hearted), but, again, he’s good at that. It’s his persona, and it’s put the great use here, especially when he’s able to reveal that sensitive side that helps him to teach these kids a thing or two. As you might expect, he actually does end up being a pretty good babysitter to them in the end, even if they have aided him in grand larceny on multiple occasions. Green never goes with full-on cloy, though---he’s too smart for that. We know these familiar beats, but the fun comes in how Green manages to equally match them with bad taste.

Considering the film opens with Hill orally pleasuring his girlfriend, it doesn’t take long for that bad taste to show up, and “The Sitter” is rather relentless from this point on. If you aren’t sure about how far it’ll go, it eventually cracks a JonBenet Ramsey joke that’s funnier than it has any business being. Once the wheels are completely greased, it’s a little hit or miss--a sequence that finds Noah being mistaken as a pedophile is particularly hilarious, while other moments (such the various meetings with the drug dealers) wear out their welcome. But the characters encountered along the way manage to be quite memorable; among them is the main dealer, brought to life by Sam Rockwell’s absurd performance. The guy even has his own gang that looks like it was regurgitated by a hipster Halloween party. Noah also runs into an older guy simply known as “Soul Baby” in the aforementioned club; it’s a bit role with only a few lines, but Reggie Green owns it, and ends up with the movie’s most memorable line.

In the end, though, I think the sweetness stays in your mouth a bit more because there are some genuine character moments; despite the low-brow, non-sequitur nonsense, “The Sitter” finds a heart in the various problems besetting these characters, particularly the kids, who are well-realized by a trio of terrific performances. The stand-out is Bender’s Blithe, who is allowed to dress up like a hooker and dream of partying in clubs (even though she’s only in primary school), and Records brings an unexpected empathy to Slater, a kid who is unusually dependent on anxiety medication for a 13 year old. Meanwhile, Kevin Hernandez is a doing a cool little Fonzie impersonation, laying low, seemingly always scheming about what he’s going to blow up next.

I’ll concede that “The Sitter” is formulaic and sometimes aims low; however, I’m not convinced that it’s aiming that low, nor am I convinced that this is anything more than Green having another good time. We see more of his nerdy, gabby, pop-culture prowess, as there’s off-the-wall references to stuff like “The Shining” and even the Dolph Lundgren trash classic “I Come in Peace.” He even riffs on his buddy James Franco’s appearance on “General Hospital.” Maybe someday he’ll return to the films that landed him on everyone’s radar (though he’s been hovering around that “Suspiria” remake for years now, so who knows), but, for now, I’m quite enjoying the wild ride we’ve been on ever since the “Pineapple Express” hit the road. This one might be both bumpier (in terms of quality) and safer (in terms of tone), but “The Sitter” works as a disposable exercise in bad taste that’s washed out by after-school special platitudes.

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originally posted: 12/13/11 19:52:17
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User Comments

5/01/12 Monday Morning Hey Peter Sobczynski, get a life instead of spending hours reviewing crap movies. 3 stars
1/26/12 Devin Sabas funny movie that didnt pull punches. im going to miss fat jonah hill 4 stars
12/21/11 Stacie Clark I really liked this movie! 4 stars
12/17/11 Ming I love the Adventure of Babysitting. This film remind me alot of it except for the R 3 stars
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  09-Dec-2011 (R)
  DVD: 20-Mar-2012


  DVD: 20-Mar-2012

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