Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review: The Sitter

Who didn’t love Elisabeth Shue back in the eighties when she was the quintessential girl-next-door playing opposite Ralph Macchio in the true Karate Kid movie or subbing for Claudia Wells as Jennifer in the 2nd and 3rd installments of the Back to the Future Trilogy.  She didn’t quite reach Meg Ryan’s status as America’s Sweetheart, but I think for a lot of people, her performance in Adventures in Babysitting did a lot to nudge her into the conversation.

It really was only a matter of time before someone would attempt a remake (and make no mistake about it – The Sitter is a replica of Elisabeth Shue’s cult classic), but if ever there was a complete 180 in casting it would have to be Jonah Hill stepping into this lead role.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like Jonah Hill – he of Moneyball, 21 Jump Street, and Superbad fame, but this is one of those projects he should have passed on.

Hill plays Noah Green, a college dropout with little sense and even less direction, who is entrusted with looking after three troubled kids for an evening.  Add women, guns, and eccentric drug dealers to the mix and you have the setup for a symphony of errors.  The problem is that director David Gordon Green and writers Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka aren’t really up to the task of putting together a sound comedic production.

Hill is adequate but only because we are familiar with his shtick as a sarcastic degenerate slacker.  It’s a role he eases into like an old pair of sweatpants.  But jokes are poorly set up and punch lines extremely flat.  One of the key mechanisms to this movie is to establish a camaraderie between Hill and Landry Bender, Kevin Hernandez, and Max Records (the 3 kids he is charged with watching).  Unfortunately, there is little development in their relationship and that completely robs the plot of any sense of catharsis in the third act.

As for the rest of the cast, Ari Graynor is adequate as an incredibly self-centered and narcissistic woman who emotionally abuses Hill’s character; Sam Rockwell delivers his typically strong performance as the heavy who terrorizes Hill’s night; and Kylie Bunbury as a potential paramour for Hill is likable amidst a cast of misfit pieces.  Despite some inspired efforts, unfortunately the final product is less than the sum of the individual parts.  The blame for this has to fall on the source material.

I would avoid this one all together.  Even on free TV.  There are any number of Jonah Hill movies out there that are better to watch and to be honest, The Sitter is not even worth the postage fee Netflix pays to ship a DVD to you.  Going forward, let’s hope that Hill makes better comedic choices and that he also avoids pulling a Jim Carrey or an Adam Sandler on us by embarking on a run of movies that reflect a desire to pursue a career as a dramatic actor.  We could definitely use another installment of 21 Jump Street in the near future. 

Standout Performance:  Sam Rockwell.  He always brings something to each performance that makes it unique.   His performance as Karl is a memorable one.


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