Hollywood seems to be at a standstill when it comes to the success rate of foul-mouthed films that wear the R-rated stamp as a sign of significance. One film makes over a hundred million while another barely makes back what it cost to produce, which isn’t a whole lot to begin with when it comes to the budget of a comedy. Even if the topic remains in limbo for the time being, one thing is for certain: David Gordon Green should stop making comedies, or at least start to aim a little higher.
His early works were quiet interpretations of the struggles that develop within friendships and families. This was well before he made Pineapple Express however, where he became glued to the notion of toilet humor and dialogue that’s dotted with four-letter words. Green seems to excel at crafting dramatic stories centered on simple ideas; but the same can be said for his direction when making comedies, his lack of depth is too single-minded to offer anything we haven’t seen or heard before. Such is the case with The Sitter, an adventure in babysitting that is unforgivably crude, oddly miscast, and way too familiar.
The first thing that’s noticeable only seconds into the film is that Jonah Hill filmed this movie before his massive weight loss. The Sitter looks to be his last movie where he stars as the deliberately overweight oaf with sex engraved in his brain at all times. Playing characters with a high tolerance for degeneracy and observations for dirty remarks, Hill settles comfortably into the persona of Noah. It’s an easy role for Hill to play, and it’s leagues away from his quiet and restrained performance that was displayed in this year’s Moneyball.
Watching him perform sexual acts on Ari Graynor’s lower half early on is a sign of raunchy filth that lies ahead until the closing credits start to appear. It’s also an indication of a person who shouldn’t be around small children. But this isn’t a biography on middle-aged losers who still live with their parents; it’s a comedy that is set in a world where people are dumb enough to trust pathetic creatures like Hill, someone who warmly embraces the cleavage of a mother whose children he is about to look after for the night.
Of course the running gag here is how terrible Noah acts towards the three seemingly innocent children in his care. On paper, maybe it sounded funny to have dialogue where Hill threatens a child to serve his will, but it doesn’t generate laughter once it’s acted out. One or two chuckles may occur due to the delivery and tone that Hill utilizes at times, although not a single scene in The Sitter will have you howling in tears. Seeing children terrorized in movies has lost its appeal by now, or maybe it was never a fad to begin with. Time and time again, films use improper language in the wrong manner, where the level of intelligence during exchanges of speech is lowered for the sake of pleasing an audience.
The story is just as in need of a brain. It desperately clings to the use of clichés and a predictable formula that never strays from being something you’ve seen before. Does the selfish Noah learn from the young kids he scrambles all over town to protect? How about the boy who is obsessed with explosives. Do you think his unlimited bag of tricks comes in handy at one point or another? It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the answers, making it easy to be five steps ahead of The Sitter.
The elements of danger that Noah runs into are so unrealistic and contrived, it’s like watching a bad sitcom that awaits the plug being pulled. The single white man in nightclub full of black characters, all dressed head to tow in gold chains and bandannas, who eventually becomes loved like a brother after the events of silly unbelievable behavior. Green is above this juvenile material as a director (hopefully) and needs a wake up call that allows him to step back into the dramatic territory he once thrived at making films about.
The Sitter is a mess because of a lot of things, but most of the blame should be focused on a lazy script that could have been written in a single afternoon. Hill is always likable and can hold a movie together with ease, so it’s obvious that something he’s in is terrible when his talents are wasted on saying things even high school students would wince at hearing. Superbad was riddled with filth, but it was almost poetic in the context it was exploring about adolescent development.
The best thing The Sitter has going for it, is in its supporting cast that feature two criminals (played by Sam Rockwell and J.B Smoove) that deserve their own movie. They don’t work at all in this film but their presence sparks immediate interest that is more involving than Noah and his band of hellish kids. If a sequel were to come from The Sitter, it would be better off revolving around the daily routine of Rockwell and Smoove’s characters. Just make sure David Gordon Green stays away form it being conceived.