Recycled comedies can still be funny.
Movies about baby-sitters went out of vogue when John Hughes and the late-eighties ended. And yet, cinema, like fashion, is cyclical. If enchanting vampires can range from Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt to Robert Pattinson and Stephen Moyer, why can’t Mary Poppins re-incarnate in 2011 as an overweight college dropout with an arsenal of pop-culture wisecracks and a hidden heart of gold? Jonah Hill and his three precocious charges make a strong case for this in this winter’s caper comedy, The Sitter.
From the outset, one knows that there is very little to expect in terms of cinematic value from this film. The concept is known, the ending obvious, and the treatment far from radical. The expected cursing, scatological references and lewd jokes are aplenty. Unlike David Gordon Green’s last directorial outing Your Highness, though, the predictability doesn’t morph into boredom. He mixes in crude humor with gentle doses of popcorn emotion and keeps it short, sweet, simple and entertaining.
The story, if that, is simple. Noah (Hill) has been kicked out of college and is living with his mother, a divorcee who’s being cheated out of alimony and child support by her ex-husband, now married with child to his once-babysitter. Noah’s in equal parts bitter and, in his mother’s words, in stasis, contented to mooch off his mother whilst being treated like a doormat in his largely one-sided relationship. He does have a redeeming quality though, and agrees to babysit for his mother’s friends for a night, so that she can join them for a night on the town, and a chance to meet a nice man. Naturally, Noah’s charges for the night are a trio of nut-jobs, briefly described as the gay, the gaudy and the gangster. What follows is a mash up of a series of movies that populate the universe that birthed this one. Right from Date Night to Green’s own Pineapple Express, there’s a little bit of every movie crammed in to this screenplay. And it plays out with wild abandon on the streets of Manhattan.
None of this seems particularly fantastic, but the film succeeds in the fact that it doesn’t aim to be that at all. What it is however, is completely adequate. There are enough laughs (mostly physical humor) in the film for you to not regret paying your ticket fare, and some actually clever moments. Also, for a film with three children in it, there is remarkably little grating. For an added bonus, Sam Rockwell plays a crazy drug dealer who ranks his best friends with as much ease as he shoots his enemies. For those of you looking for eighty minutes of mindless entertainment in the face of the dreadful finals week, it isn’t a wasted trip to the cinema. At its very worst, it’ll serve as motivation to make it through college, or at least this semester.
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Starring: Jonah Hill, Sam Rockwell, Max Records, Kevin Hernandez, Landry Bender
Rated R. 81 min.
See if you liked: Date Night(2010)