Sometimes you just want a movie to do what it’s supposed to do. It doesn’t have to be the greatest movie ever made; it just needs to do its job. If it’s a horror flick – just make me jump a few times and be at least mildly frightening. If it’s a love story – just make me shed a tear or two, and we’re good. That being said, The Sitter was a movie that did its job.
I’m an 80’s baby so when I saw commercials for The Sitter I immediately thought of Adventures in Babysitting, the 80′s movie about a babysitter’s wild night out with the kiddies. In The Sitter our reluctant hero and sitter is Noah Griffith, played by Jonah Hill (Get Him to the Greek). Hill looks rather slim nowadays, but very recently looked like this. Not that it matters one way or another, it’s just weird to see such a drastic difference in his appearance. Noah is a lovable loser type of guy who is living with his mother after flunking out of school. He has a “girlfriend,” Marisa, exceptt instead of a life partner she’s more like a selfish boss who allows Noah the privilege of answering her every beck and call. Their relationship is one-sided in every respect, and Noah is essentially a doormat. His parents are divorced, and his dad hasn’t paid alimony or child support in years, despite owning a thriving jewelry store. Noah loves his mother and wants to see her happy, so he volunteers to babysit for his neighbors so they can take her out for a blind date with a friend. Little does he know this routine act of kindness will end up being a life-changing experience.
When Noah meets the kids for the first time we can tell that this will be an interesting experience. The eldest boy Slater (Max Records) is about 13, followed by the adopted Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez) who is roughly 11, followed by Blithe (Landry Bender), an adorable girl of about 8. Slater is melancholy and anxious, dependent upon pills to get through the day. Rodrigo has pyromaniac tendencies and is equipped with a GPS device to prevent him from running away too far. Blithe is obsessed with the ‘celebutante’ world of reality TV and acts like she’s 8 going on 21.
Noah has a DUI on his record, so he is prohibited from using the family car while babysitting. That goes out the window almost immediately when he gets a call from Marisa asking him to bring her some coke to a party in the City. It’s an absurd request, and she asks as if coke the cocaine was as easy to get as coke the cola. She promises that she’ll give him some nookie if he brings it to the party, so he foolishly agrees. He has to get the yayo from a dealer named Karl (Sam Rockwell, Iron Man 2), so he takes the three kids and rolls out in the minivan. Predictably, Slater is anxious about their outing, Blithe is excited, and Rodrigo is just menacing. It should be no surprise that a night of babysitting would go downhill shortly after taking the kids to a drug den – and that’s exactly what happens.
This precocious bunch doesn’t exactly follow directions, so when Noah instructs them to wait in the car, their obedience is short-lived. Rodrigo ends up swiping some drugs from Karl, and before Noah can return the package it gets destroyed. When Karl notices that the drugs are gone, he tells Noah that he has a couple of hours to return it or give him $10,000. Meanwhile, Marisa still expects him at the party, and the kids need to be tucked in their beds by the time their parents get home. Making matters worse is the fact that Rodrigo likes to run off from time to time.
The movie largely follows Noah and the kids as they try to get the money to pay Karl while seeming to get in one scrape after another. Noah runs into a former classmate who finally opens his eyes to the fact that he’s a good guy who deserves better than Marisa, who only seems to care about getting the coke that Noah promised he’d bring. Through all of the mishaps, Noah manages to bond with the kids and realizes that they are more than just little pains in the rear. Slater suffers from anxiety because he’s pretending to be someone that he’s not. Rodrigo misbehaves because he’s never had structure and stability and is afraid to trust his new family. Blithe idolizes celebrities because she hasn’t learned to be herself and love who she is on the inside. So, at the end of the day what began as the night from hell ended up being a learning experience that changed several lives for the better.
The Sitter worked because it had the right mix of humor and heart. It wasn’t corny or overly sentimental, and the laughs were timed perfectly. Jonah Hill has shown time and again they he’s a great comedic actor. The R rating lets you know that just because there are kids in this movie doesn’t make it a ‘kid’ movie; it’s not. The kids use and hear foul language, and obviously cocaine is an essential plot element. That being said, leave the kids at home with the sitter and go check out The Sitter, a comedy that did what just what it was supposed to do: make you laugh.
This article first appeared at http://poptimal.com/2011/12/the-sitter-review-it-just-works/ and was reprinted with permission.