Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Sitter (2011)

The Sitter (2011)
Dir. David Gordon Green

2.5 out of 5

The Sitter may be the most apropos title for a Hollywood film in a while. Never straying too far from the confines of a familiar construct, it babysits the audience for 90 minutes until our minds can return to more substantive matters. It doesn't entertain so much as it occupies. At times it attempts to inject the into-the-night genre with a new enthusiasm but always returns to the warm, welcoming bosom of incredulous plotting and ethnic stereotyping. Somewhere, there will always be people comforted by the sight of white suburbanites forming uneasy alliances with streetwise African-Americans as they go off the reservation and onto the unpropitious turf of the inner city.

At least the beginning of Jonah Hill's journey is somewhat unique. He's already a sad sack and a ne'er do well when pressed into duty as an emergency sitter for three children on the outskirts of New York City - an anxious teenage boy (Max Records), a tween fashionista (Landry Bender), and an adopted Salvadorean with a penchant for destruction (Kevin Hernandez). Hill's reasons for dragging his charges into several dangerous situations revolve around scoring drugs for a woman (Ari Graynor) who doesn't much like him but has dangled the possibility of sex if he can make it to a Brooklyn house party with a little bit of nose candy. This storybook romance is threatened, however, when Hill runs afoul of unstable drug dealer Sam Rockwell and must produce a large sum of cash before daybreak. Thus the film allows some room for creativity, since narcotics are typically not affordable for folks working for $10 an hour.

Of course, there's an argument to be made that Hill should be getting paid as a psychiatrist, not a nanny. The kids' emotional boo-boos seem like a constant preoccupation in
The Sitter, which bounces incessantly between its heartwarming and caustically chaotic modes. And while it's nice to see director David Gordon Green rebound from the silly debacle of Your Highness, his style is still too shaggy for all of the film's mismatched parts to hang together. Hill is amusing as an older version of his Superbad character that's less manic and prematurely wise, projecting a familiarity with failure that outstrips his age. But I would trade the movie's excessive schmaltz for more hysteria in a heartbeat - apart from a few inspired comedic setpieces, The Sitter wants to slack off and put us to bed early when we could be having so much more fun.

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