Who would you rather watch in a movie about babysitting: a 1980s Elisabeth Shue or an overweight Jonah Hill? Let’s be honest, you’d probably pick Elisabeth Shue. And no, this argument is NOT based on looks. If you’ve seen his nuanced performances in “Cyrus” or “Moneyball,” then you’ll agree that Hill has outgrown crappy films like David Gordon Green’s “The Sitter,” regardless of former weight.
In an age of reboots and remakes, plenty of Hollywood scribes try to slyly spin an established idea or genre, by marketing it as new. However, rarely do they bring anything worthwhile with their changes. Penned by newcomers Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka, “The Sitter” is a prime example of writers wrecking an existing story by sneakily trying to recycle it.
The film follows Noah Griffith (Hill), a college dropout, who is convinced to babysit his neighbor’s kids as a favor. Noah thinks the job will be a piece of cake, so when his crush (Ari Graynor) offers him action, he stupidly drags the children along to New York City.
He is completely unprepared though, for supervising three quirky kids in the city. The party girl Blithe (Landry Bender), the junior anxiety case Slater (Max Records), and the rebellious pyromaniac Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez) are quite the handful. Pretty soon Noah is in way over his head with a wild adventure that involves an angry drug dealer (Sam Rockwell), grand theft auto, and other outlandish debauchery. Somewhere in there he also needs to figure out how to get the girl and make sure everyone’s home in time for bed.
If the premise of “The Sitter” sounds slightly familiar, it probably should. Basically it’s an R-rated version of the 1987 Elisabeth Shue movie “Adventures in Babysitting.” Instead of a teenage female trying to help a friend in Chicago, “The Sitter” features a horny dude in his 20s looking to score in New York. The children themselves have unique personality traits, and the outrageous events that happen differ, but the core elements are similar.
Sadly “The Sitter” lacks most of the heart that makes a film like “Adventures in Babysitting” enjoyable to watch. Our protagonist Noah is kind of a selfish jerk. Not only is his main concern getting laid, but he reveals through dialogue that he has a history of arrest and other various screw-ups. There’s individual moments that Noah shares with each child, where he really listens and gives them advice, however these scenes feel forced, despite the sensitivity that Hill brings to the role.
Decent comedy is also absent in “The Sitter.” Most of its gags involve lewd potty humor mixed with slapstick. Additionally Gatewood and Tanaka attempt to create awkward jokes with Sam Rockwell’s drug dealer, however they fall pretty flat. The only truly funny lines in the whole film come from Hill’s insults for a set of ginger twins, and a crack that he makes about the size of his testicles.
“The Sitter” marks director David Gordon Green’s second bomb in a row after his lackluster outing from earlier this year “Your Highness.” If he’s only working with writers he’s friends with, he should probably be more selective. Fans of Green’s “Pineapple Express” certainly deserve better, and so does a talented actor like Jonah Hill.
My Grade: C-