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‘The Sitter’ leaves us crying for less

POSTED: December 7, 2011 5:10 p.m.
Jessica Miglo/20th Century Fox

From left, Landry Bender, Kevin Hernandez, Max Records and Jonah Hill are shown in a scene from "The Sitter."

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The raunchification of American film comedy continues with "The Sitter."

The current strategy among comedies aimed at young adults is to take each comedic genre one by one and rehash the standard story lines, adding as many jokes about bodily fluids, sex, body parts and drugs as possible.

"The 40 Year Old Virgin" launched the raunch-com trend by poking fun at developmentally arrested men.
"Knocked Up" and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" took the romantic comedy to new depths of bad taste.

"Superbad" and numerous other movies made the teen comedy even raunchier than it already was.
"Pineapple Express" did the same thing to the stoner comedy.

Many other films have taken the same strategy. A lot of them, like those listed above, are very funny. Many more, though, are terrible.

I don't think I'm the only movie fan who is tiring of this brand of comedy.

Jonah Hill, the star of "The Sitter," has grown tired of it, too. Of this I am sure. Hill's recent work shows a clear desire to make better films. He lent his usual persona to the indie surprise "Cyrus" last year. He does Oscar-worthy work in "Moneyball."

He also slimmed down dramatically for "21 Jump Street," which was shot this year and will be released in 2012. That movie will likely tread familiar, raunchy territory, but Hill's weight loss marks a complete break from his ‘funny fat guy' persona.

Bucking that trend in Hill's career, we now see the release of "The Sitter," which raunchifies the babysitter comedy.

Hill plays Noah Griffith, a college dropout who lives with his mother, Sandy (Jessica Hecht).

Noah's life fell apart when his father (Bruce Altman) left Sandy and started a new family.

Noah doesn't have any friends or a direction in life at all. He allows himself to be used by Marisa (Ari Graynor), a girl completely out of his league.

Yet Noah is basically a sweet guy.

He ends up agreeing to babysit for three kids so his mom can go on a date. Little does he know (of course, we see it coming from miles away) that each of the kids has big time issues.

Slater (played quite well by Max Records, star of "Where the Wild Things Are") is 13 yet suffers from extreme neurosis. Preteen Blithe (Landry Bender) has bought into the twisted American dream being pushed on kids today, that happiness is found in being famous and going to trendy parties.

Adopted Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez) has the body of a boy but the mentality of a Columbian drug lord. He particularly enjoys blowing things up.

Noah should just stay at home with the kids, but Marisa calls him up and promises to have sex with him if he comes to a party . Oh, but he has to buy cocaine for her on the way. (Sighing, shaking head.)

So Noah drags the kids into the New York City slums, where he buys drugs off of a weird, weight-lifting kingpin named Karl (Sam Rockwell).

It's one misadventure, and one foul-mouthed wisecrack, after another, and almost none of it makes sense.

Like "Uncle Buck," "Adventures in Babysitting," and "Bustin' Loose" (which starred Hill's hero, Richard Pryor), Noah must help each child work through his or her issues, as well as some of his own, in order to survive the night. Lessons will be learned.

Only, most of the "lessons learned" scenes, intended to inject the movie with heart, don't work.

"The Sitter" provides some laughs, but it's a throwaway movie. And completely out of place on Hill's present career trajectory.

Part of the explanation for the movie's anachronistic appearance — as well as Hill's pre-weight loss body in the film — is that it was shot in 2010, originally scheduled for release in August, but pushed back to this week.

"The Sitter" looks every bit like a movie that has sat on the shelf, gathering dust.

Bottomline: An enjoyable but disposable movie.

Jeff Marker teaches film and literature at Gainesville State College. His reviews appear weekly in Get Out and on gainesville
times.com/getout.

 



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