The kids are not all right

Jonah Hill slacks off in familiar raunchy territory

Jonah and those meddling kids.

Jonah and those meddling kids.

The Sitter
Starring Jonah Hill. Directed by David Gordon Green. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated R.
Rated 2.0

Remember when Jack Black taught a bunch of preppy rich kids how to form a bad-ass rock band in School of Rock? The Sitter’s kind of like that, without being bad-ass. It’s just … bad.

Like Black, Jonah Hill plays a chubby, well-intentioned slacker who gets stuck babysitting a group of kids—in this case a troublesome trio of siblings: Blithe, Slater and Rodrigo Pedulla (Landry Bender, Max Records and Kevin Hernandez, respectively). Where Black was driven by his passion for music, Hill’s character, Noah, is motivated by a selfish girl and a bag of coke. That’s right. On the night that he is responsible for the safety of the Pedulla kids, Noah’s pseudo-girlfriend (Ari Graynor) coerces him into making a drug run in exchange for sex at the “super cool” party she’s hanging at. So begins the wild—and dangerous—city adventure on which he drags these little kids.

A college dropout being forced to relate to a posse of privileged children has the potential for funny character development, but like Noah, the makers of The Sitter were just plain lazy. The movie mostly just puts its stars in the most preposterous of situations to show how “funny” it is that Noah’s clueless when it comes to child care. From the drug-dealing scene that goes so wrong, to the fight scene with the psycho drug dealer Karl (Sam Rockwell), director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) resorts to crude slapstick to form a weird comedy-action-romance hybrid that just doesn’t work. We forget that this is supposed to be funny, and mainly just worry about the well-being of the minors left unattended in a stolen car.

Jonah Hill carries what little substance this film does have. His comedic timing and one-liners provide a few chuckles here and there. And we do root for him, because this underdog’s genuine honesty shines through the haze of his stupid shenanigans.

Following the trend of comedies that celebrate their R-rating with honor, the gratuitous raunchiness only works sometimes. Yet it is still a semi-sentimental movie, because as Noah gets to know the kids, he tries to teach them life lessons. Sure, it’s cheesy when he shows Blithe that beauty’s on the inside, or when he tells Slater that he’s not a loser, but in between all of all those F-bombs and despite the film’s base premise there’s something fairly sweet in Noah’s own growing up.