DVD Release Date: March 20, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: December 9, 2011
Rating: R (for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, drug material and some violence)
Run Time: 80 min.
Director: David Gordon Green
Actors: Jonah Hill, Max Records, Landry Bender, Kevin Hernandez, Sam Rockwell, Kylie Bunbury, Ari Graynor
CAUTION: This review includes references to explicit content.
What has happened to David Gordon Green? Through most of the 2000s he made sensitive art house movies like George Washington, All the Real Girls, Undertow and Snow Angels. But then he went in a radically different, more commercial direction. His choice of genre? Stoner comedies like Pineapple Express and Your Highness.
Green continues to go after the lowest-common denominator with The Sitter, a bawdy comedy that takes the premise of 1987’s Adventures in Babysitting, adds lots of raunch and puts Jonah Hill rather than Babysitting’s Elizabeth Shue in the starring role. For those who care to stick it out, there’s a message about marital faithfulness and the pain caused by infidelity, but let’s not kid ourselves: The film is not out to deliver any moral to its story. It’s a story involving sex, drugs and young kids that refuses to make any judgments about the behavior of its main character.
We meet that character, Noah (Jonah Hill, Moneyball), in the first scene, as he engages in oral sex with his girlfriend, Marisa (Ari Graynor, Conviction). She’s using him for sexual pleasure, and for other pleasures as well. He balks when his single mom asks him to watch her friends’ children so the adults can have a long-planned night out on the town. “I’m not Mary Poppins” says Noah, who shows no interest in landing a regular job and who has a checkered history of run-ins with the law. But knowing the evening might lead to a date and potential relationship for his mom, he shows up at the friends’ house to babysit.
Each of the three kids he’s given charge of for the evening has issues. The youngest, Blithe, has a fixation with painting her face in heavy makeup, and at one key moment, she reveals a lack of control over basic bodily functions. Older brother Slater, who takes pills for severe anxiety, has no idea how to respond to the twin girls who invite him, along with other “cute” boys, to a party. He’s more interested in his longtime male buddy, who’s making excuses not to spend time with him. Then there’s Rodrigo, a third sibling who’s recently been adopted from Central America and who, it turns out, has a destructive streak. As soon as his parents leave for the night, Rodrigo puts Noah to the test, shattering bottles of liquor on the floor and breaking the family’s vases.
The group doesn’t stay put in the house for long. When Noah’s girlfriend calls with the promise of “full-on sex” if he shows up at a party, he jumps at the opportunity. But there’s a catch: He needs to “pick up some coke” on the way. He drives the family’s van, with the kids in tow, to see a local drug dealer (Sam Rockwell, who starred in Green’s Snow Angels), but through Rodrigo’s mischief, they leave with more drugs than they came for.
The rest of the film involves Noah trying to make amends for Rodrigo’s theft while still attempting to meet up with Marisa. Noah is so blinded by the opportunity for sex with Marisa that he can’t see the possibility of a new, more mutually affectionate relationship when he runs into an old friend from school (Kylie Bunbury, Prom). He’s also preoccupied with the personal foibles of the kids he’s watching, particularly Slater, whom he declares to be gay based on a glance Slater gives two men on a subway car and his longing to spend time with a male friend. Slater embraces Noah’s diagnosis.
Then there’s the destructive Rodrigo, who stays close to silent for much of the film, letting his explosive actions speak for themselves. Toward the end, he shouts an angry explanation for his behavior (he’s been passed from home to home and has had enough).
The Sitter does have a few stretches of manic energy and some laughs, but it refuses to judge any of its young characters’ sexual escapades (on the plus side, it does condemn adultery in parental figures, and presents characters who clearly long for more stable home lives). Watching it is enough to make one long for the “good old days” of 1987, Adventures in Babysitting, and the relative innocence of that film’s main character, as played by Elizabeth Shue. While not appropriate for the whole family—the film carried a “PG-13” rating—Babysitting is tame relative to The Sitter. Better yet, skip both movies and have a family game night with the kids. You won’t be sorry you did.
- Language/Profanity: Lord’s name taken in vain; explicit discussion of sex acts; reference to venereal disease; Noah tells his mom not to “give it up too easily” if her date goes well; “s-it”; numerous “f”-words; “a-shole”; “b-stard”; “b-tch”; Blithe says she passed gas, but something more came out; gay slur; “d-ck.”
- Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Slater takes pills for anxiety; Karl snorts cocaine; Rodrigo takes drugs from Karl; Noah says he was once addicted to Robitussin.
- Sex/Nudity: Cleavage; kissing; Marisa offers Noah “full-on sex” if he’ll bring her cocaine; men shown in tights; Noah encourages Slater to make a “Slater sandwich” with two female friends; reference to strip search and to prostitutes; gunfire and bullet wounds; a married man is accused of sleeping with a co-worker; Noah says his childhood babysitter slept with his dad and broke up his parents’ marriage; Noah tells Slater that Slater is gay; a character advises Noah to “make love to the night”; Noah advises a philandering husband to return to his “smokin’ hot” wife.
- Violence/Crime: Blithe sprays Noah in the face with perfume; Rodrigo lights fireworks in the house, knocks a bottle of liquor and a vase onto the floor, blows up toilets using cherry bombs, pees on floor and savagely bites human ears; Noah says he’s been arrested several times; brawling; a man’s pants catch fire in the crotch area.
- Marriage: Noah’s parents are divorced, and his dad owes his mom alimony.
- Religion: Noah says his name is biblical in origin, and a woman says the Bible is “a hot book”; a man says he prays for another character.
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