Friday, 7 February 2014

The Sitter (2011)

Jonah Hill plays the worst babysitter ever in this comedy that's a lot lower on laughs than it should be, and certainly pales in comparison to the '80s greatness of Adventures In Babysitting. The script, by Alessandro Tanaka and Brian Gatewood, sets things up well enough, but then derails within the first 15-20 minutes, leaving director David Gordon Green hoping that the cast can salvage something from the situation. They can't.

As a favour for his mother, Noah Griffith (Hill) agrees to babysit three youngsters for an evening. There's young Blithe (Landry Bender), a girl who keeps trying to make herself appear much older than she is. There's Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez), an angry young man who lies to let out that anger by blowing things up with cherry bombs. Last, but not least, there's Slater (Max Records), who has anxiety and identity issues. As if looking after the three kids wouldn't be enough of a problem on its own, Noah is called by his selfish girlfriend, Marisa (Ari Graynor), and asked if he could kindly pick up some drugs for her and meet her at a cool party. Being the irresponsible sort that he is, Noah takes the kids along while he meets drug dealer Karl (Sam Rockwell) and his right hand man, Julio (J. B. Smoove). And things start to go wrong.

If The Sitter was a completely laugh-free zone, with no potential to be entertaining, then it would be an easier film to dislike and completely dismiss (which is, I'm sure, how some people feel about it anyway), but the irritating thing about it is the uneven tone. Things start off amusingly enough, and it all looks promising as Hill meets the kids and tries to establish his take-no-shit stance from the outset, but then it all just becomes too dark once the kids are dragged along to a "simple" drug deal. From then on, the movie moves from one confrontation to the next, with things getting progressively darker and more violent. This may have been the intention of the writers, and director, but it's not the best outcome for a film marketed as a comedy.

Hill ticks the boxes here, in terms of his comedy style, while the kids are just a bit too angst-ridden and rebellious to be likable, although Bender just about manages to stay sweet while also being a smartass. Graynor is okay, but stuck playing a loathesome character, Rockwell is wonderful as Karl, Smoove is stuck with some of the most unpleasant lines from the script, and Kylie Bunbury brightens up the screen, thanks to the fact that she's allowed to play one of the nicest characters in the movie.

Ultimately, this is a film that's too flippant to be enjoyed as a comedy thriller and too dark to be . . . . . . . . . . . . . . enjoyed as a comedy thriller. There are some moments to enjoy, but they're few and far between.


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