Further adventures in babysitting
By Ann Hornaday
Friday, Dec. 9, 2011
Reportedly, "The Sitter," a raunchy new comedy starring Jonah Hill, will be the last movie to feature the pear-shaped young actor in his heavyset form, Hill having slimmed down considerably in recent months. Although the fatter-the-funnier equation is doubtlessly glib, there's no question that when actors such as Hill and Seth Rogen seek deeper, more complex roles - in "Moneyball" and "50/50," say - the first step always seems to be more protein shakes and fewer Ding-Dongs.
For those fans who cherish Hill's delicate balance of anxiety and self-confidence that finds its uncanny embodiment in a fat man's physical contradictions (claiming space while projecting unworthiness of it), "The Sitter" will constitute a vulgar, fitfully funny, if not completely fond farewell to Hill's baby fat phase.
Hill plays an arrested adolescent named Noah who's living at home with his mom after being suspended from college; with no discernible job in sight, his chief occupation is pursuing a self-centered blonde named Marisa (Ari Graynor), who is enthusiastically enjoying his prowess in bed as "The Sitter" opens.
Hand it to director David Gordon Green and his writers, Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka: At least they let filmgoers know exactly what they're in for.
"The Sitter" plays like an R-rated homage to the 1980s comedy "Adventures in Babysitting," with some "Date Night" and lots of filthy humor thrown in. Spiked with some loopily inspired supporting performances (Sam Rockwell turns up as a freaky, tweaky drug dealer running the world's most hilariously depraved coke den) and Hill's characteristically inspired improvisational asides, "The Sitter" is an efficient but uneven programmer, whose most valuable contribution to the cinematic landscape is its blessedly brief 80-minute running time.
"The Sitter" allows no opportunity for sophomorically leering humor to go unturned: The reason Noah finds himself babysitting a neighbor's three kids is that their regular sitter has a urinary tract infection (funny stuff!). In the course of the ensuing night, he and Slater (Max Records), Blithe (Landry Bender) and Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez) run amok through a Brooklyn bat mitzvah, an upscale restaurant, a street-tough pool hall and a retail outlet called Neal's Diamonds, which they leave seconds before the place blows into smithereens.
Green keeps the episodic beats coming at a reliable but mechanistic clip, allowing Hill to get out of an escalating series of scrapes by dint of his quiet, fast-talking cool. (One of "The Sitter's" best set pieces is a smooth verbal groove-a-thon with a bouncer named Soul Baby, played by Reggie A. Green.)
One of the weaknesses of "The Sitter" is that Hill doesn't develop much comic chemistry with the children, one of whom is an awkward neurotic, one of whom is a pyromaniac and one of whom is a budding Paris Hilton who pronounces everything "hot" and wonders if a bar they land in has bottle service.
The biggest kid, of course, is Noah himself, another man-child abroad in a world that can't see the exquisite gifts behind the girth. It's a tired trope, but with Rogen and now Hill signaling that they're ready to leave it behind, we may starve the beast yet.
Contains crude and sexual content, pervasive profanity, drug material and some violence.