One more reason to hate the '80s: All the terrible comedies being made that pay homage to the vacuous decade. "The Sitter" isn't as bad as "Hot Tub Time Machine" or "Take Me Home Tonight." It's worse.
This odious, hypocritical movie marks director David Gordon Green's transformation into full-on hack. How did the guy who once made such artful movies as "George Washington," "All the Real Girls" and "Undertow" arrive here? His last picture, "Your Highness," was also a dud, but at least you could respect its ambition. "The Sitter," however, is a crass cash grab, a bottom-feeder entertainment that insults bottom feeders.
Written by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka (this is their first produced screenplay), the movie comes on all cheerfully disreputable. We meet the portly Noah (Jonah Hill) as he's showing the pretty Marisa (Ari Graynor) some "mouth love," an act she's unwilling to reciprocate. When his mother, divorced and single, asks Noah to baby-sit her friends' kids so she can go out on a date, he reluctantly agrees. But he regrets his decision the moment he meets his young charges: The anxiety-ridden Slater (Max Records), the rebellious Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez) and the precocious Blithe (Landry Bender), who is obsessed with becoming a celebrity and talks about nightclubs and partying even though she's 8.
If you've seen "Adventures in Babysitting," you know what happens next: Circumstances force Noah to drag the kids into adult situations, including a visit to a drug den, a robbery at a jewelry store and a high-speed car chase complete with flying bullets. "The Sitter" strives to be subversive and heartwarming at the same time, but it only succeeds at being offensive.
Sam Rockwell plays a gay cocaine dealer who surrounds himself with bodybuilders and roller-skating queens, and Samira Wiley is a former classmate of Noah who enjoys threatening Caucasians with her fellow hip-hop thugs. The movie tries to mine laughs from its mincing homos and scary black people, then excuses its racist, prejudiced stereotypes by making one of the kids gay and giving Jonah an African-American love interest (Kylie Bunbury).
"The Sitter" is too sloppy to even bother to make any sense whatsoever. Green, whose previous movies all had a nice visual style, can't even come up with a single memorable image. This is a crummy, hateful picture. Happy holidays!
1 star (out of 4)
STARRING: Jonah Hill, Max Records, Sam Rockwell
DIRECTOR: David Gordon Green
RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes
RATING: R for vulgar language, sexual situations, drug use, brief violence, horrific stereotypes.
THE LOWDOWN: A college student gets in trouble when he baby-sits three kids.