In 1987, Elisabeth Shue starred in “Adventures in Babysitting,” an action-comedy that followed the trajectory of “The Out-of-Towners” and the tone of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
“The Sitter,” which features Jonah Hill, is more like “Date Night” mixed in with a little of every raunchy comedy you’ve ever seen. I couldn’t begin to count the F-bombs, some of which came from a little girl’s mouth. And when a film opens up with Jonah Hill going down on a hot blonde who’s his girlfriend, you know two things: it’s going to be raunchy, and it’s going to be male fantasy.
Two versions—unrated and theatrical—are provided in this Blu-ray combo pack, but it really doesn’t matter which one you watch. In both cases the characters are one-dimensional, the narrative logic is stretched thin as a gum bubble ready to pop, and the resolutions are facile—so easy, in fact, that you feel like you’re watching people play Hot Lava in their basement and all they have to do to avoid danger is jump on a chair or declare that they’re wearing asbestos boots.
No one’s saying as much, but writers Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka obviously drew upon “Adventures in Babysitting” for the basic concept. Only instead of a high school student who babysits three kids after her date stands her up, we get Noah Griffith (Hill), who gets roped into babysitting three kids after his mother’s date stands her up. Huh? Yeah, well, he agrees to fill in for a sick babysitter so the woman who set his mom up with a blind date can double date as planned. Because like any 30-something guy who still lives with his mother, he wants Mom to be happy.
In “Adventures in Babysitting,” the action begins when the main character gets a phone call from a friend who begs her to come to a seedy bus station in downtown Chicago and rescue her. So she leaves the suburbs with the kids in tow, has a flat tire in the world’s worst neighborhood, and somehow gets caught up in the middle of a mafia mess because of a Playboy magazine—the result of one pervy boy she’s looking after.
In “The Sitter” it all starts when Noah does his thinking below the waist and responds to a promise of intercourse with his girlfriend (who has only been using him to pleasure her) if he’ll go to her coke dealer and bring the blow to a party she’s at. Yep. Instead of the mafia it’s a drug dealer they inadvertently cross, and not because of a dirty magazine—but because the twisted boy he’s babysitting has a thing for explosions and swipes a coke “egg” he apparently mistakes for a type of bomb.
After that, the similarities stop. Both domino plots fall in opposite directions, with the 1987 film taking the PG-13 route and “The Sitter” going for R-rated raunchy comedy and setting up Noah Griffith as a deus ex machina who figures everyone out, solves all their problems, and manages to get out of scrapes that would have most people toe-tagged . . . or at least sitting, battered and bruised, in a room trying to pick out the guys from a police line-up.
A high point in “Adventures in Babysitting” came when Chris found herself in a tough spot inside a tough club, and real bluesman Albert Collins declared, “Nobody leaves this place without singing the blues.” She earns their respect, but we bought it. Here, when Noah ends up in an all-black club and confronts a woman whom he believes stole from him, it plays out like a white male fantasy. In other words, don’t watch this movie and think you can learn from it. Do anything that Noah Griffith does in this film and you will be maimed, killed, arrested, and detested. Guaranteed.
And the kids? Once you get past the bad taste of Noah calling the little girl with a celebrity and make-up fetish Jonbenet Ramsey”—a young pageant contestant who was murdered in her Colorado home—what you have are kids defined by a single trait. In addition to the girl who looks to be about 10 (Landry Bender, “The Council of Dads”) there’s a disturbed 13 year old (Max Records, “Where the Wild Things Are”) who depends upon psychotropic drugs to keep it together, and a recently adopted El Salvadoran kid (Kevin Hernandez, “My Name Is Earl”) who wears long pajamas and cowboy boots and has a bad attitude that’s reflected in pyrotechnics and general maliciousness.
What you see is what you get in this shallow comedy that tries to shock, but at the expense of humor. There were a few moments when I found myself laughing, but not enough to compensate for all the predictable situations and easy fixes. After a while you never even get a sense of danger or adventure because it all is resolved, every step of the way, so very very easily. Another thing that defuses any tension is that the writers and director David Gordon Green (“Pineapple Express”) take time-outs in the middle of various capers so Jonah can have a heart-to-heart with one of the kids.
Hill deserves better, and he got it in “Moneyball.” This one was obviously just done for the money.
A lot of locations and sets were used, and different types of lighting, so the image can change over the course of the film. Some scenes look a little soft, while in others the detail tends to get smudged in low-lit scenes. Overall, though, I’d have to say that the AVC-MPEG-4 transfer and presentation is decent, with natural-looking flesh tones and colors and enough detail to satisfy most viewers. “The Sitter” is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen.
The audio is pretty rockin’, though, with the music and strong rear-speaker effects reminding you at every turn that this is a pretty dynamic soundtrack. The featured audio is an English DTS-HD MA, and you can actually feel the bass vibrate in a number of scenes. It’s a crisp sound, with additional audio options in English Descriptive Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1, and subtitles in English SDH and Spanish.
The “Totally Irresponsible Edition” includes both the 81-minute theatrical version and the unrated edition, which adds another six minutes. Also included is a DVD of the film and a Digital Copy.
Beyond that, there’s not much. “The Making of The Sitter” runs 15 minutes and covers all the standard bases—feeling a bit like a pre-release promo. Fans of deleted/alternate/extended scenes get 26 more minutes. Then there’s just a five-minute bit with Hill hanging out with the kids as they get tutored and see their parents behind the scenes, a three-minute quote montage, a two-minute gag reel that makes you wish they’d have just gone the self-reflexive route and included them in the film, a trailer, and a one-minute boxing bit.
I don’t think I’m too demanding. All I ask for in a comedy is that it be funny. And in “The Sitter,” too often gross-outs and foul language substitute for humor.