2011 was a bit of a weird year for young actor-comedians. James Franco starred in Oscar-nominated 127 Hours and blockbuster Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Seth Rogan shocked everyone by starring in a cancer comedy that wasn’t just exploitative, and Jonah Hill turned his hand, to more serious acting in baseball drama Moneyball.
However, The Sitter looks to sit Hill firmly back in his comfort zone. While on suspension Noah Griffith (Hill) is coaxed into babysitting a neighbours kids so his mum can go on a hot date and the “hijinks that ensue” become as predictable and as redundant as a Russell Brand marriage councillor.
In its defence, this is a film that never claims to be anything besides simplistic, but still does not sit comfortably in one genre. The attempts at comedy often seem uncomfortable with the children alongside for the ride; it’s harder to laugh when the fates of three largely innocent children are also tied in. The children themselves feel like they are there to add a sense of dramatic gravitas – a stereotypical spoilt girl, Blithe (Landry Bender) and two boys; one the generic adopted troublemaker Ricardo (Kevin Hernandez), the other an effeminate guy, Slater (Max Records) dealing with being gay. Shockingly, this is one of the few times the film actually seems entertaining, dealing with it with (not necessarily tact, but) a degree of sensitivity without becoming overly sentimental or cloying.
However, watching this you can’t get the feeling you’ve seen it all before. Hill’s character is supposedly a nice guy deep down, and we’re supposed to root for him to get treated better than his current on/off girlfriend Marissa (Ari Graynor) treats him, but they seem almost like mirror images. Both seem self absorbed, lazy and just using the other to get something, but because he looks like an underdog and says a few words of wisdom to the children, we’re supposed to root for Noah and boo Marissa. While Hill clearly has “the likeability factor”, this film stretches it until it snaps, with nearly everyone he meets seeming to view him as a lovable but misunderstood misanthrope despite the fact he’s actually neither lovable or that all misunderstood.
The clichés keep coming after this, as there’s even a typical impossibly attractive nerdy girl who was into him all along, Roxanne (Kylie Bunbury), and yet somehow this comes across as the most believable part of the movie.
Drug dealer Karl (Sam Rockwell) pays no attention to sanity and plays his own brand of crazed villain, not dissimilar from his role in Iron Man 2. Like Iron Man 2 however, you can’t help but feel that Rockwell’s potential gets a little wasted here – even if it was him who got most of the laughs out of me.
All in all, while The Sitter provided a few laughs, the characters are largely recycled or unsympathetic and there’s nothing much here that you won’t have already seen. This brand of crass comedy has been done before, and much better.
Platform rating: 4/10