DIRECTED BY DAVID GORDON GREEN
STARRING: JONAH HILL, MAX RECORDS, ARI GRAYNOR, JB SMOOVE, LANDRY BENDER, KEVIN HERNANDEZ, KYLIE BUNBURY, ERIN DANIELS, D.W. MOFFETT, JESSICA HECHT, BRUCE ALTMAN and SAM ROCKWELL
It’s very difficult to stomach a child swearing. The immediate reaction simply has to be one of shock, where we’re made to look at more than just the movie, at the actual bigger picture. “Where did she learn that?” becomes redundant where a more relevant question is “How can they let her?” It’s like a crusade almost, the struggle between different kinds of morality. The child would come to learn all those things anyway, so how does it matter? Only in the same way as underage sexuality. What’s going to rot is going to rot, so why not cut the fuss and make some manure instead?
Trashy scripts are born there, I like to think. At the houses of people who don’t mind which movie their children act in as long as they’re made stars in the process. Chloe Grace Moretz, second-in-line behind Dakota Fanning in this rat race, said in an interview about how her language on the sets of ‘Kick-Ass’ could’ve gotten her grounded had she used it anywhere on the outside. That’s some strict parenting. Her parents really seem to put their foot down. ‘Kick-Ass’ turned out to be quite the illuminating movie where her blitzkrieg performance might even have landed her a place on the Walk of Fame. But at what cost?
The child in such a movie is supposed to signify a dysfunction that’s meant to intimidate; to come across as an instructive sort of shock. I’ve never found myself comfortable with those movies that try to ease me into the situation; that show the situation to be beyond control that we can't do anything but watch. Even worse are those that get a laugh out of it.
‘the Sitter’ is like a ‘Superbad’ about preteen siblings. Well, one of them is thirteen and is a soon-to-be-found homosexual (Slater, played by Max Records, who has had his share of mischief earlier in Spike Jonze’s ‘Where the Wild Things are’), another is Hispanic and adopted (Rodrigo – Kevin Hernandez) and likes to break than make. Which is pretty understandable, except he escalates. The third is Blithe (Landry Bender), who looks to be about ten and would probably win Paris Hilton’s ‘My New BFF.’
Writers Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka create a lineup that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg could never have possibly created, and they do it by the simple way of rendering their characters younger and fitting them into the same family. And Jonah Hill plays dirty babysitter against Rogen’s dirty cop in a one-man show without Bill Hader for support. Hill is Noah Griffith, faithful to Hill’s own stereotype as the overweight, foul-mouthed, catastrophic young man who, under no circumstances, would ever tone it down. I know I have to eat my words after his sensational weight-reduction bout, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Noah is a Momma’s boy, a college dropout and a loser boyfriend. That’s a ‘Cyrus’ meets ‘Get Him to the Greek’ in a ‘Superbad’ premise.
Jessica Hecht as Sandy Griffith is as hot as Marisa Tomei was in ‘Cyrus,’ with the difference being that Noah actually wants her to find someone. Her friend, a Mrs. Pedulla (Erin Daniels) has set her up with a surgeon whom she thinks she’d hit it off with. Everything looks set, Sandy is excited, Noah is happy to see his Mom like that. Then comes the news that the Pedullas’ babysitter has called in sick and there’d be no outing without someone to take care of their kids. Sandy asks Noah to step in, Noah brushes reluctance aside for his Mom.
‘the Sitter’ is a pastiche of emotions which doesn’t do justice to any. The caring son, the yearning boyfriend, the helpless victim – all are subverted by a compulsive comic stance. The timing is good but the plot is unjust. Noah and the kids embark upon this adventure from one inappropriate place to another, with wise-cracks and emotional intercepts to punctuate a mindless chase where a car is lost and regained, ‘the Hangover’ style. In the end, Blithe would have danced at a couple of unfitting places, Slater would have found out that he’s gay and Rodrigo would have blown up two toilets and a car before he learns to sweep the floor. Noah, on his part, would have lost the coke that he was getting his girlfriend (Ari Graynor) along with a handful of diamonds stolen from his traitor of a Dad to repay the eccentric gangster in Karl (Sam Rockwell) whose ‘dinosaur egg’ he wasted, thanks once again to Rodrigo. Like every loser boyfriend, he learns to let go and teaches too, but only on finding his share of interest in Roxanne (Kylie Bunbury) from school who has always had a crush on him. The kids smile from the window. Noah smiles back. All is well, or is supposed to be.
Everyone is disappointed with David Gordon Green, a filmmaker of such promise as he showed with his independent suburban movies such as ‘George Washington,’ ‘Undertow,’ ‘All the Real Girls’ and ‘Snow Angels.’ After ‘Pineapple Express,’ which was more of a Rogen & Goldberg vehicle than one of his own, he came up with ‘Your Highness,’ which, we thought, was to be his worst. ‘the Sitter’ is second-time sadness. I hope Jonah Hill loses his stereotype with the weight he’s lost. And I hope that Green finds his way back to serious cinema again. Because, honestly, I can't take this a third time.