Director David Gordon Green, who gave us the wonderful Pineapple Express, shot an unholy misfire earlier this year with the middling medieval farce Your Highness. I count Your Highness as one of the year’s biggest disappointments—if not the biggest.
Now comes The Sitter, Green’s third comedy feature in a row, and his second this year, after starting his career with evocative, effective dramas like All the Real Girls and George Washington. While it represents an improvement and a few more laughs per hour than Your Highness, it’s still not worth your time.
Jonah Hill, riding high on this year’s excellent Moneyball performance, goes back to Superbad mode for this one as Noah, a slacker adult stuck babysitting some scary kids for the evening. The film has drawn comparisons to Adventures in Babysitting, the ’80s cult classic starring a super hot Elisabeth Shue and Penelope Ann Miller.
The kids left in Noah’s care have a varying degree of weirdness. Best of the bunch is little Blithe (Landry Bender), who loves to glop makeup on her face and shoot perfume into Noah’s mouth. There’s also Slater (Max Records of Where the Wild Things Are), a cute, anxiety-ridden kid who keeps ranting about his “issues.” Finally, there’s foster child Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez), who enjoys blowing up toilets and pissing on dance floors.
They all pour into a minivan for an adventure-filled night involving clubs, parties and drug dealers. And, yes, one of the kids farts. It’s an R-rated comedy, but it has kids, so that means somebody is going to fart—am I right? Not only does the kid fart, the kid sharts, which leads to unfunny pedophile jokes while Noah loiters in a kid’s underwear section.
The Sitter is just about as formulaic as a film can get. Stick the crass Jonah Hill in with a bunch of crazy juveniles, put the whole lot in some crazy situations, and see what sort of crazy things Hill will say next. Hill has talent, and a lot of his zingers can generate a little giggle at minimum, but the shtick grows a little tired after the first half hour.
The drug dealer subplot would be the film’s best asset because it involves the one, the only Sam Rockwell as Karl, a very strange dealer running one of cinema’s all time strangest, and gayest, drug dens. He keeps his cocaine in baby dinosaur eggs guarded by well-oiled bodybuilders. To top things off, the place is guarded by a jovial, effeminate man on skates.
Rockwell has that gift that makes every character he brings to the screen wholly original, and Karl is no exception. In one instant, he’s hugging on Noah, calling him one of his very best friends, and in the next he’s shooting at him. Karl is quite menacing and horrible, yet surprisingly good-natured, all things considered. Patented Rockwell nuttiness.
Were Rockwell in this movie some more, I’d have give a recommendation to see it. As it stands, The Sitter feels incomplete, with Hill struggling to keep it afloat with his potentially tiresome routine.
Of all the performances in the film—besides Rockwell’s—Records delivers the best. His Slater is an endearing character. It’s good to see Records’ career could go beyond Where the Wild Things Are. The Sitter isn’t the best movie for him, but it does show he has comic chops.
The Sitter isn’t terrible moviemaking, but it certainly doesn’t deserve a slot in December, when we’re supposed to be getting Oscar contenders. In closing, I ask this of the Movie Gods: For the time being, let there be no more comedies from David Gordon Green. Please.