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The Sitter

December 11, 2011
The Sitter

David Gordon Green, the director of Pineapple Express and Your Highness obviously knows there’s ways of taking a raunch comedy that doesn’t make a damn lick of sense and making it entertaining, albeit still stupid. He seems to have forgotten this, since The Sitter aspires to stupidity. Adventures in Babysitting, it ain’t.

The movie opens with Noah (Jonah Hill) wiping his face in exactly the way the MPAA used to threaten NC-17 ratings over, and it goes downhill from there. This service is but one of the reasons his “girlfriend”, Marisa (Ari Graynor), strings him along for as she pines for her cage-fighting ex-boyfriend. But it’s not like Noah has anything else going; he’s an unemployed college dropout living with his mother since his diamond-merchant father left ten years ago and somehow stiffed them on the alimony and child support.

Noah’s mother has a chance to be set up with a well-to-do surgeon at a charity function, but her friend’s babysitter has cancelled at the last minute. With a glimmer of a conscience, Noah steps up to shoulder the burden in the service of his mother’s sex life. And so he finds himself saddled with the extremely closeted Slater (Max Records), the aspiring “celebutante” Blithe (Landry Bender), and the pyromaniac adoptee Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez). Noah settles in to grin and bear it through the evening.

That is, until Marisa calls from a party asking Noah to bring her cocaine — not for herself, naturally — and dangles the promise of sex. And so against all possible sense Noah packs the kids into their parents’ minivan and heads into the city to buy drugs from Karl-with-a-K (Sam Rockwell). Of course, nothing goes remotely as planned and — as I’m sure it was put in all the pitch meetings — the sit hits the fan.

Look, I get the whole “kids say and do wildly inappropriate things” approach to humor, but can we please declare a moratorium on anyone, of any age, ever saying the word “sharted” again? Most of this wouldn’t be funny no matter who the characters were, and inflicting these roles on children seems somehow cruel.

One of the best examples comes early on, when Noah tells his mother “not to give it away too quick”. The audience is clearly supposed to laugh — the characters laugh uncomfortably to let us know — but we’re just uncomfortable. What was the thought process behind this line? What is the exchange as a whole supposed to tell us about Noah’s character and his relationship with his mother? Or did writers Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka just decide to include it with no regard for its implications?

The latter seems to be the case, since over and over we are presented with something that’s supposed to be funny, usually isn’t, and doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the narrative. The “chaotic” editing techniques in so many modern action movies seem to be infecting comedy writing; the goal is to bludgeon the audience into submission with one ham-fisted gag after another and hope that nobody notices that the story is an afterthought at best.

Worth It: no.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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