Thursday, December 15, 2011

699 - The Sitter review



And the devolution of David Gordon Green continues. You might not know Green from the more esoteric films at the start of his career. They were pictures like “George Washington” and “All the Real Girls,” works that announced him as a director to watch. They were understated and deliberate, demonstrating tenderness with a quiet melancholy.

Then came “Pineapple Express,” a stoner comedy with a surprising amount of humor and heart. Then came “Your Highness,” an emphatically stupid medieval stoner comedy for stoners, by stoners, written and produced while enjoying their illicit product.

Now Green’s arrived at “The Sitter,” a wretched, miserable piece of trash that would be embarrassing for the least-talented kid in a high school AV club, much less a name director once critically acclaimed.

It’s essentially a dirtier version of “Adventures in Babysitting,” a 1987 pic revered by more than a few people my age. That was actually a kids’ movie, with a hint of vulgarity designed to assure children into thinking they were watching something edgy. Conversely, “The Sitter” proves the folly of a habit of bad writers: when one has nothing interesting or funny to say, take another story and make it dirtier.

A lot dirtier, in this case. Most scenes defy polite or tactful description by family newspaper standards. The nastiness might not be offensive on its own. People worshipped “The Hangover” because of (or in spite of) its vulgarity and raunchiness, those guys were all adults. Here, scene after scene involves children exposed to sex, drugs, danger, violence, not to mention saying a lot of swear words. When shooting a film, actors usually give many, many takes of any given line. So when an eight-year-old girl says something aggressively ugly, one must wonder, how many times did she have to repeat that line on set?

I leave the having and raising children thing to others, though I worry nonetheless. How many parents will spot “The Sitter” on video shelves or at an automated kiosk and assume the film to be kid friendly despite its R rating? If you’re a parent considering watching this with your kid, skip it and go for something more wholesome, like “Blue Velvet.”

Jonah Hill plays the titular babysitter, a ne’er-do-well imbecile that packs up his three charges in order to score some drugs for pseudo-girlfriend. What did she promise him? Can’t say, family paper. It’s to Hill’s credit that his character, who drags these awful children through a witless freakshow of dopeheads, lowlifes, and murderers, ends up seeming just stupid than what he would actually be, which is sociopathic and evil. Scenes designed to demonstrate the character’s humanity are just perfunctory balderdash, any attempt at sensitivity instantly ruined by the picture’s inherent cruelty.

The fine character actor Sam Rockwell shows up as a demented drug dealer in pursuit of Hill’s character, giving a performance that he doubtlessly will leave off his resume for years to come.

Even at 81 minutes, which really means 75 unless you’re one of those hopeless cinephiles who sits through the credits, this runs incredibly long. I’d say about 75 minutes long or so.

1 out of 5

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