If “The Sitter” accomplishes anything, it proves that Jonah Hill can indeed carry a movie all by his lonesome. Of course, Hill brought laughs as a sidekick in films like “Funny People” and “Knocked Up”, and less intentional ones alongside Brad Pitt in “Moneyball” earlier this year. But that’s the thing: up until this point, he has always worked alongside other(if not arguably more famous) talent. This film is a great test for Hill, as the screenplay isn’t entirely the strongest. However, he rises to the challenge, as the majority of the laughs come from his delivery.
David Gordon Green directs the film, which has the air that it has been sitting on the studio shelf for some time. Perhaps Twentieth Century Fox thought the film would be in the shadow of Green’s other project, “Your Highness”, which featured big names like James Franco and Natalie Portman. Is that why it was bumped to a December release, to compete with Tom Cruise’s latest “Mission: Impossible” installment and not one, but two Steven Spielberg films? It’s truly an unfair shake, as “The Sitter” is effortlessly funnier than “Your Highness” was. It isn’t a great movie, but it’s not really a bad one either.
The premise is as simple as the trailers tell it: Noah(Hill) ends up babysitting some neighborhood kids so his mother can have a night out to enjoy herself and possibly find a love connection. She’s had trouble adjusting since her divorce, and it’s a rare moment of selflessness for Noah, as he doesn’t really care to look for a job and refuses to turn down the TV even when his mother is on the phone. When his so-called girlfriend calls him up and promises a hook-up if he arrives at the party with some illicit ‘favors’, Noah drags the kids out on the town, which leads to a series of mishaps and potential danger from an unwound drug dealer(Sam Rockwell).
Hill turning on the rudeness is half the fun of “The Sitter”, but then the screenplay has to go and warm Noah’s heart a tad. It never fully commits to Noah’s bad-boy act, and when the character starts talking the children through their problems things feel slightly cheesy. The story also takes awkward turns with a visit to a clothing store and a pool hall. The characters introduced in these scenes seem to be right on the edge of parading blatant racial stereotypes. The script backs away somewhat with explanations, but seems to return to such dialog moments later.
Jonah Hill manages to take a subpar screenplay and elevate it with his comic timing in “The Sitter.” The actor proves he has the charisma to lead a cast. The film is funnier than what could first be expected, but it’s not nearly as crude or outrageous as the marketing might otherwise suggest. There is a heart to the film that slightly kills the fun, but doesn’t necessarily kill the movie. This film would do well as a cheap afternoon matinee.
“The Sitter” is currently playing at the Regal Showplace 16 in Crystal Lake, IL.