Watching the trailer for The Sitter left me with this reaction: That movie looks clichéd, it probably gives away the best jokes in the trailer, and there’s no possible way it has any substance to it. After seeing the film, it turns out I’m only partially correct. The cliché part is dead on. Even so, the rest of the film turns out to be funnier than I expected. Best of all though, this film has an actual heart amidst all the silliness. There will be no Oscars or revelations of the dramatic acting prowess of Jonah Hill or the kids, but The Sitter is most certainly not a bad movie.
The first thing that makes the film work is basically what they’ve marketed it on: Jonah Hill. I find the man to be funny in just about everything he’s in. It’s somewhat strange to see fat Jonah Hill, as this is the last movie he shot before he lost quite a bit of weight, but int his case it actually fits the role. Hill plays Noah Griffin, a guy with basically nothing good going for him. He’s had a DUI, he has no job, he lives with his Mom, and his kind of sort of girlfriend only wants to spend time with him when she needs something. He loves his mom though, so when a big night out on the town for Mom is cancelled when a friend can’t find a baby sitter….enter 80’s movie style cliché of Noah stepping up to the plate. Hijinks ensue!
The first kid is Slater, (Max Records, star of Where the Wild Things are) a nervous, tense, socially awkward boy who wears a fanny pack full of the pills he has to take to keep him from flipping the f out. The second is Blithe (Landry Bender), Slater’s younger sister who is full on obsessed with reality tv / celebrity culture to the point where she wears an obscene amount of make up and calls everything “hot”. Third is Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez) who has been adopted by the family, barely speaks any English, and has a penchant for destruction. The kids all perform well in this much raunchier comedy that I expected. Rodrigo is fine and doesn’t detract from anything, but his character is basically only there to facilitate his need for destroying or stealing personal property, both of which are used more than once to move the story along. He does have a story arc and I think the audience is supposed to feel like he’s developed as a character, but the writing failed to make any his moments feel natural.
80’s movie is an apt description for The Sitter, as what should be a quiet evening at home with the kids in bed on time quickly turns into grand theft auto, bathroom bombings, stolen drugs AND stolen diamonds, fighting an MMA combatant, and being on the bad side of an insane drug dealer and his best friend (Sam Rockwell and J.B Smoove). It isn’t realistic in the slightest. But, damn it, it’s FUNNY. Hill is a fantastic straight man and the film is a perfect fit for his deadpan style. When Rodrigo threatens to bite Noah’s ear off, his response of “…..that’s specific” was a perfect example of the excellent comedic timing the film has. Blithe’s excellent and frequent uses of profanity are also well done and don’t come off as cheap. I’m sure her parents weren’t thrilled, but hey, she’s starring in a movie!
The heart of the movie I referred to earlier is really Slater. His problems are more normal, which made them easy to relate too. All he wants to do is be accepted by his parents, siblings, and peers, but he’s unsure how to do it. Minor spoilers ahead, although this isn’t the type of movie that really suffers from them. A scene where Slater’s best friend basically breaks up with him was incredibly sad for a comedic film. But it gave Noah’s character the insight as to what exactly was “wrong” with Slater. As it turns out, he’s gay. It’s Noah who actually helps Slater come to terms with that, at least for himself. A 13-year-old dealing with how to feel about himself and others and coming to terms with being homosexual is NOT something I expected to see in my 80’s movie comedy. But it was endearing and played completely straight by both Hill and Records. It was the thing that impressed me the most about the film.
Sam Rockwell as Karl the drug dealer is also worth mentioning, as it seems he was basically signed on to the film and told “Do or say whatever you want, just make sure you act bat shit insane the whole time.” Rockwell is good at being crazy, so it’s the perfect role for him. Most of the other supporting characters are good but not very memorable. This is Hill and the kids movie.
The Sitter exceeded my expectations. It’s not a great movie by any means, but it’s good. I would call it a good family film if it weren’t for the plethora of sex jokes (“It’s just like E.T, only with a lot more going down on chicks”). It’s light, it’s fun, and let’s be honest, watching a 9-year-old girl punch a guy in the testicles is ALWAYS funny.
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