Ten years ago David Gordon Green was one of the most promising independent filmmakers. Last year he made two studio comedies: Your Highness and The Sitter. Both of which bombed at the box office. It’s likely this isn’t the final chapter of Green’s career, but perhaps he will move on to non-comedies at for a while. The Sitter stars Jonah Hill as a college dropout who takes a babysitting gig, only for everything to go crazy when his girlfriend wants him to stop by a party so they can have sex for the first time. It’s got just enough weirdness and transgression not to be painful, but The Sitter isn’t that funny. Our review of the film follows after the jump.
Noah Griffith (Hill) is a fat loser, who begins the film going down on Marisa (Ari Graynor). She suggests she has food poisoning to avoid returning the favor. This is Noah’s life in a nutshell. When his mom needs him babysit some friends kids so she can go out on a date, he reluctantly agrees. The kids are nightmarish: Slater (Max Records) is a pill popping closet case, Blithe (Landry Bender) is a ten year old who wants to be Paris Hilton, and Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez) likes to make things explode. Things get more complicated when Marisa calls and tells Noah that if he picks her up some cocaine, she’ll have sex with him. So he takes the kids in a mini-van to get coke from Karl (Sam Rockwell) and the adventure begins. Maybe, just maybe, everyone will learn some life lessons along the way.
Transgression is a very hard thing to maintain cinematically because you have to build either to or on it– it’s great for a moment (an old lading saying ‘fuck”) but can’t sustain a narrative. The premise of The Sitter seems like a winner because it’s got Jonah Hill saying inappropriate things around children, buying drugs, stealing from a Bar Mitzvah, a jewelry store, etc. But swearing at children only has a lasting charge if it’s someone like Bill Cosby– it’s not hard to believe that Hill would say terrible things to the underage. And because it’s obviously a formula picture, it never makes those moments feel that shocking- it never advances beyond the immediate shock – so it is just Adventures in Babysitting with more offensive things. No one actually does cocaine, and everyone learns about themselves in the end – there’s even the nice girl for Noah to get with. It’s an empty ride, and it’s easy to see why Fox cut it to 81 minutes and dumped it.
But – as with any David Gordon Green film – there are things to like in it, though that’s got everything to do with Sam Rockwell’s drug dealer. His base of operations is loaded with bodybuilders enacting strange training techniques, and Rockwell wants to be Hill’s friend immediately. When their relationship gets complicated, he acts even stranger – though the film wholesale lifts a gag from The Long Goodbye. Method Man shows up too, and that’s cool – though he doesn’t have much to do but be a scary black guy (seriously). This was labeled one of the worst films of 2011 (something also lobbed at Your Highness, a film I think is pretty funny), but both are similar in having premises that are more interesting than the films themselves. The Sitter isn’t that bad: it’s short and the formula keeps everything moving well enough that it’s always building to its conclusion. You can just see what it was meant to be and how it keeps missing that mark.
Twentieth Century Fox presents the film on Blu-ray in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 Master audio. The film comes in a theatrical (81 min.) and unrated (87 min.) cuts, and comes with a DVD and digital copy. There are ten deleted/alternate/extended scenes (26 min.) that would have padded out the film a little more, and add more improv. There’s also a slightly different ending (not really missed, though). They’re followed by a gag reel (3 min.) “Sits-N-Giggles” (3 min.) that offers different lines for jokes, “For Your Consideration” (1 min.), which has Landry Bender making noises, and then a making of (15 min.). “Jonah the Producer” (5 min.) jokes on Hill’s inappropriateness and the disc wraps up with the film’s theatrical trailer.