The Sitter

25 Dec

Title: The Sitter
Year: 2011
Director: David Gordon Green
Writers: Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka
Starring: Jonah Hill, Ari Graynor, Max Records, Landry Bender, Kevin Hernandez, Sam Rockwell, J.B. Smoove, Method Man
MPAA Rating: R, crude and sexual content, pervasive language, drug material and some violence
Runtime: 81 min
IMDb Rating: 5.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 25%
Metacritic: 38


David Gordon Green is a director that took a 180 with the direction his career seemed to be taking. He started out with indie dramas like the brilliant George Washington as well as All the Real Girls, which had Zooey Deschanel delivering a truly outstanding performance, films that established him as one of the most talented young American directors around. And then in 2008 he suddenly made the transition to comedy, teaming up with Seth Rogen and James Franco to give us the stoner comedy Pineapple Express as well as for getting together with one of that film’s co-stars, Danny McBride, to deliver HBO’s raucously funny Eastbound & Down. Now, don’t get me wrong, even though I loved the dramas he made, those comedic chops the man proved to have were outstanding; Pineapple Express I ranked as my eleventh favorite film of all 2008 and remains as one of my favorite comedies of that past decade, and Eastbound & Down is one of the five funniest shows on TV.

As such, I started really getting amped when it was announced that earlier this year Mr. Green would be releasing Your Higness, another stoner comedy, this time one set in the medieval times, that would reunite him with Mr. Franco and Mr. McBride from Pineapple Express, with the gorgeous Ms. Deschanel from All the Real Girls and also have Natalie Portman, fresh off her Oscar, as part of the cast. My expectations for Your Highness were seriously high (pardon the pun), and I was fully ready to embrace it as the best comedy of the year, a worthy successor to Pineapple Express. The result, however, was seriously disappointing, I gave it a low B but even that was being generous and mostly because how much I already love the people in front of the cameras, but yeah, it was a huge letdown for me.

So of course I went into Mr. Green’s second offering of the year, The Sitter, prepared for the worst, not to mention that this one still didn’t look nearly as awesome as Your Highness did on paper. The film has him directing Jonah Hill, in the last performance we’ll see of his with his chubby physique, as a really irresponsible babysitter who takes the three kids he was supposed to be taking care of through the streets of New York one night where all sorts of R-rated adventures will then obviously ensue. The result? Well, it’s a plot that’s like something we’ve seen plenty of times before, jokes that aren’t great at all and performance from Jonah Hill that he could deliver in his sleep and that’s nothing like the superb job he did earlier this year in his first serious performance in Moneyball (which I gave an A+ to). Though none of this is his fault, he’s still super charming and warm in this film, it’s just that the film doesn’t use him well.

It’s a pity really that this film turned out to be so misguided in which the jokes seem to be too raunchy considering the subject matter, and which not even Mr. Hill, who’s infinitely likable, can salvage with his comedic chops. Your Highness was a disappointment but I still liked it fine, this one I couldn’t even really like all that much. I mean, you have Mr. Hill talking really fast like he always does, but that whole hyperkinetic vibe does nothing for this film, because even though it tries to amp it all up and deliver R-rated antics, the results are actually really tame and familiar, with lessons about growing up and your usual mumbo jumbo. Much as I loved Pineapple Express and I love Eastbound & Down, I think it may now be time for Mr. Green to go back to do an indie, maybe just one and then return to comedies, find a small film with great style and pacing and do what he does best, you know, one for him, one for the big studios, stay true to himself.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still a few funny moments in this film and least it’s really short so it’s not as though it drags along, but the second we see Noah, who’s the character Mr. Hill plays, a college dropout, we know that something’s about to go off, and as soon as his mom persuades him to take care of three of the three kids, you know just what that’s going to be. So of course there’s going to be sex, drugs, thievery and policemen, and a drug dealer played by Sam Rockwell. By which I mean, this is exactly like the storyline of so many other R-rated affairs we’ve seen recently, okay maybe not the storyline because you don’t R-rated comedies about babysitters all that often, but every single situation is such a cliché of the genre that I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to quit out on this film and go watch Superbad or something of actual high quality.

I wouldn’t recommend The Sitter. If you want to see Mr. Hill be funny there are a number of better films for your consumption, if you want to see Max Records, who plays one of the kids Noah babysits, be super fun and charming go check out Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are (my twelveth favorite film of 2009), and if you want to see a good David Gordon Green film, then check out Pineapple Express if you’re in for the laughs, or, better yet, one of his four previous efforts if you want to see films few people actually saw when many should have. It’s really saddening to see him settle for so little, and I know producers want this kind of films in which a swear word is used every minute and there’s cocaine involved with kids around and cars and violence, and I know getting films like George Washington made isn’t easy, but he’s made two mediocre films in a row now, he should at least give going back to what he does best a shot.

Grade: C+


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