'The Sitter' barely worth leaving your kids at home for

December 11, 2011 

If you think about it for two seconds, babysitters should be the highest-paid people in the world.

Who's the future? The children. Who makes sure the future isn't falling out of any windows or guzzling bottles of Windex while you're watching Battleship with your husband? The babysitter. We shouldn't be paying 16-year-olds $3.25 an hour to safeguard the very future of the planet. This is something that should be taken care of by psycholo-doctor-chefs, or at the very least invincible, macaroni-dispensing robots.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

I guess it's no wonder the future is always so awful and nobody has any jobs or money and we're all going to wind up buried together under the same pile of dog sweaters, bottled water, and other misplaced priorities. Because nobody cares enough to pay the babysitters. That's why they're so willing to bring your kids on drug deals and other high crimes like in The Sitter.

Jobless layabout Jonah Hill still lives with his mother, whose friend has set up on a date with a single doctor. When her friend's babysitter cancels, however, she ropes a reluctant Hill into the job of caring for the three troublesome kids.

Hill's sort-of girlfriend throws a wrench in the works when she calls — promising to finally have sex with Hill if he'll bring her drugs to a party in the city. Hill throws the kids in the van and drives to NYC to meet up with drug dealer Sam Rockwell — and immediately gets on his bad side.

So The Sitter is one of your "into the night" movies, where some dude, usually not too cool, gets into a number of scrapes and tussles, and emerges from the other side much cooler and so full of self-confidence they can even ask out girls. And since The Sitter is a comedy made in the last four years, it's bound by law to feature a comic car chase near or during the climax. Will Hill finally dump the girl who treats him like crap in favor of the even hotter girl who shares his feelings and insights? Will those three problem children address their individual neuroses and wind up much happier and healthier? Will I be able to come up with another cliche to make this structurally elegant?

In order, yes, yes, and no. Wait! I thought of a third one after all: Will Hill address the soured relationship between himself and his father? Co-written by first-time feature writers, Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka, The Sitter lines up its dramatic contrivances one after another before knocking them down like the obvious dominoes they are. I don't know what makes a domino obvious — maybe the dots are painted with neon, or they're thrown at your forehead at high speed — but The Sitter's are. Obvious, that is.

Which wouldn't be that big a problem if it were funnier. It's certainly funny-ish, although if you're one of those people who would like to grind Hill into extra-lean hamburgers as a warning to other shouty, obscene comedians, you should probably stay away. The Sitter gets laughs from other places too, however, such as Rockwell's violence-gang of skimpily-dressed bodybuilders, a steroidal clue that the entire proceedings are pretty surreal.

Then again, so is the career of director David Gordon Green, who started out deep in the weeds of indie-land and is now deep into weed-friendly Hollywood comedies. He's still got "it," however, so long as "it" is understood to mean a goofball sense of humor perfect for scenes where a pack of shirtless hulks whale on Hill's stolen minivan with sledgehammers, evidence enough that The Sitter has its moments. But like tequila from a plastic bottle, it's good in the moment, but you're not likely to remember much the next day.

Grade: C+

* Contact Ed Robertson at edwrobertson@gmail.com. His fiction is available on Kindle, Nook, and through Smashwords.

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