THE SITTER:  Not At Any Price – Adventures In Bad Moviemaking
Jonah Hill is awfully lucky to have made Moneyball this year.  In that film, fueled by a brilliant Aaron Sorkin/Steven Zaillain script, he gave a marvelous performance as half of the year’s most unlikely comedy team with Brad Pitt, but since then it’s been downhill.   His aggressively unpleasant FOX animation series ALLEN GREGORY has one more episode to run, dumped on a night otherwise filled with reruns, and now there’s THE SITTER, a dismally bad and unoriginal formula comedy.

The movie’s pitch meeting must have lasted about 15 seconds:  “It’s Adventures in Babysitting meets Date Night… but it’s dirty!”  “We love it!”  Hill plays Noah, a schlubby college dropout who spends his days living at home with his mother (his prosperous dad, having left them to start a new family, doesn’t pay his alimony or child support) and his nights casually abused by Marisa (Ari Graynor, in a variation of her Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist role), who he’d like to think is his girlfriend.  Guilted by mom into babysitting for a neighbor’s kids so she can have a night out with a potential romantic interest, Noah is trapped with the seemingly Asbergian Slater (Max Records, from Where the Wild Things Are), aspiring young celebrity-slut Blithe (Landry Bender), and adopted, violent Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez).  When Marisa calls to offer Noah the promise of sex if he’ll just buy some drugs for her and bring them to a party in the city, he can’t resist even if it means bringing the kids with him, kicking off the evening’s run-ins with danger, corruption and supposed hilarity.
The saddest thing about The Sitter is that the script credited to Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka doesn’t even let Hill do what he does best.  Despite its R rating and dirty mouth, The Sitter is at heart squeaky-clean; it never lets the children get into any serious danger, and before long Noah’s attitude to them is therapeutic, making them better youngsters even as they transform him into more of a responsible adult.  (In the movie’s single most bizarre sequence, Noah rediagnoses Slater’s compulsions–apparently accurately–as stemming not from a personality disorder requiring medication, but something entirely different.)  Noah even finds true love as his reward for becoming a more mature human being.  Hill’s comic strength has mostly come from sarcasm and unjustified hostility, but Noah is a lump and then a reluctant role model, which simply isn’t a very funny template.  (Oddly, it’s not dissimilar from his role in Get Him to the Greek, where he was straight man to Russell Brand’s rampaging id; if Hill is going to develop his own vehicles–he’s a producer of The Sitter–he needs to do a better job of figuring out what works for him.)  The movie is so cowardly that it doesn’t even have the nerve of the most recent Harold & Kumar movie:  in this picture, when a container of cocaine explodes in the car with Noah and the children, miraculously the kids don’t inhale a single grain of it and are entirely unaffected.
The Sitter also poses the question of what the hell is going on with director David Gordon Green.  Green started as the artiest of indie directors, with movies like George Washington and Snow Angels that were seen only by film critics and festival attendees.  He’d always wanted to be in the comedy world, though–Danny McBride, an old friend, played a supporting role in Green’s All the Real Girls–and in 2008, he completely switched gears and directed the breakout hit Pineapple Express.  Since then he’s been wholeheartedly in the Hollywood camp, directing many episodes of McBride’s Eastbound and Down series and concentrating on comedy.  But his taste and skill have been steadily degenerating:  Your Highness was a slack parody all too thrilled with its own inbred cleverness, and The Sitter is much worse, a piece of second-rate hackery that’s uninteresting to watch (even though Green’s customary cinematographer Tim Orr is behind the camera) and choppily edited (by Craig Alpert) to barely reach feature length at 81 minutes.
The movie isn’t complete misery:  Sam Rockwell (who in a different life was a star of Snow Angels) livens things up whenever he’s on the scene as Marisa’s murderous drug supplier, because that’s what Sam Rockwell does, and occasionally Hill gets to riff for a few seconds when someone like J. B. Smoove shows up.  But The Sitter is largely tiresome and almost completely unfunny, a vanity project for Jonah Hill that doesn’t even show him to best advantage.  After this and Allen Gregory (also developed by Hill), he may want to go back to his Moneyball model and put himself into the hands of people who are smarter and more capable of burnishing his talents than he appears to be.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."