With Jonah Hill, Max Records, Sam Rockwell, Landry Bender, Kevin Hernandez; Written by Brian Gatewood & Alessandro Tanaka; Directed by David Gordon Green; Rated R (for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, drug material and some violence). 81 minutes.
THE SITTER is a moronic comedy, playing to the lowest common denominator. If you think a little boy urinating in public in the midst of a bat mitzvah reception is funny, you might have a low enough standard. Or perhaps you’ve been looking for a movie in which the overweight loser hero seems to be proficient in oral sex. Or maybe you just don’t think there’s enough racial and ethnic stereotyping in the movies and have been eager for more.
Don’t let the title and premise make you think this is a remake of ’80s favorite “Adventures In Babysitting.” This is R-rated raunch. in which Jonah Hill stars as Noah Griffith, a college dropout who agrees to a babysitting gig so that his divorced mother can go out on a date. Once Noah is left with the three brats, the hilarity is supposed to ensue.
Slater (Max Records) is a tense boy who needs to be medicated to deal with his anxiety. Blithe (Landry Bender) is trying to dress like a slut even though she is a little kid. Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez) is the antisocial adoptee who likes to blow up toilets and otherwise cause mayhem. Are you laughing yet? And these are the characters we’re supposed to like.
The plot involves Noah meeting up with a drug dealer named Karl (Sam Rockwell) to score some cocaine for his alleged girlfriend (Ari Graynor). When Rodrigo steals an egg with $10,000 worth of cocaine inside, Noah has to come up with the drugs or the money or else his new “8th best friend,” Karl, will kill him. Cue the brats to do things like soil their underwear, torment each other, and otherwise make Noah’s bad situation worse.
The script is a mixture of stupidity and coincidence, in which cars are stolen, a jewelry store is robbed, people are beaten, and all these activities are by the good guys. If the R rating wasn’t warning enough, please take our advice – do not! do not! do not! take your children to this. This is not like Vin Diesel playing in “The Pacifier” or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson playing “The Tooth Fairy.” This is adolescent humor which means, ironically, you need to be an adult to see it.
Oddly enough, in the middle of all this, is a scene of such wit and honesty that you might suspect was written by someone other than the credited screenwriters. Without giving anything away, Noah confronts one of the kids about growing up and it is a scene in which the two stay in character while dealing with a serious issue. It’s funny and yet it’s true, and one wishes the intelligence that went into that scene could have been extended to the rest of the film.
As for the acting, no need to parse the performances. Hill already showed us his potential range playing opposite Brad Pitt in “Moneyball” so this is just slumming. Indeed, given his impressive weight loss, one wonders just how long ago this movie was shot. Hill is dutifully out there promoting his new film, but one suspects this is ancient history for him.
“The Sitter” is utterly forgettable and disposable, unless your idea of a good time is a little girl punching some guy in the crotch. If you think there aren’t enough movies like that, perhaps this will fit the bill.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.