Cast: Jonah Hill, Ari Graynor, Sam Rockwell, Max Records, J.B. Smoove, Landry Bender, Kevin Hernandez, Kylie Bunbury, Erin Daniels, D.W. Moffett
Director: David Gordon Green
El Camino '14
"If my doctor told me I had six minutes to live, I would type a little faster" - Issac Asimov
Review By: Jordan Nicholson
In 1987, Adventures in Babysitting was released to box office success and generally positive reviews. People liked this happy tale of babysitting-gone-wrong, in which a hapless sitter bonds with the quirky kids as they are chased by dangerous criminals and try to get home before the parents do. If you’re wondering why I’m describing this film instead of The Sitter, don’t worry—I just did. Released in 2012 to universally negative reviews, this nearly identical film (the last to feature a pre-weight loss Jonah Hill) was considered a disappointment. The films even made the same amount at the box office, oddly enough, but with a budget nearly four times that of Adventures (plus the adjustment for inflation), The Sitter barely broke even. How times change. But just how much have they changed?
Hill plays Noah in the film, a slacker recently suspended from college who agrees to babysit the eccentric Pedulla kids for the night. When Noah’s girlfriend Marissa (Ari Graynor) tempts him with the promise of intercourse, he decides to steal the Pedulla’s minivan and drive across town, kids in tow. On the way he gets on the bad side of a drug-dealer (Sam Rockwell), and finds himself scrambling to get $10,000 together.
The story itself is almost indistinguishable from Adventures. Only the characters provide any variation. Unlike its counterpart, which featured the beautiful Elizabeth Shue as a protagonist, The Sitter offers an overweight loafer who places the lives of three children in danger for a chance at getting laid. While the kids in Adventures are appropriately quirky and likable, the Pedulla kids of Sitter lean more towards scary than cute. They all have serious psychological problems that need to be addressed, yet the film plays it off for laughs and resolves all their issues over a night of being driven around by a stranger and being shot at by criminals. Healthy.
The eldest, 13-year old Slater (Max Records) carries a fanny pack full of pills and claims to be disturbed. It isn’t until Noah forces him to come out of the closet that he starts to come to grips with being gay. Now I could write an entire essay about how much I hate the way this character was handled. The idea that this kid thinks he’s crazy when really he’s just gay comes off as insensitive and out-of-touch to me. And the fact that Noah, having only met the character a couple hours before, would be the one to have this conversation with him seems both inappropriate and stupid. He’s not old enough to know if he’s gay or not—the kid is prepubescent for Pete’s sake!
Slater’s younger sister Blithe talks like a party-girl despite her less than ten years on the planet. This leads to several uncomfortable situations, though she is by no means the worst of the trio. It is the third child, an
The script is sloppy, featuring a series of choppily placed scenes and a constant change of locale. I guess the destructive nature of the kids makes it impossible to stay in one place any longer than that. I found this made it impossible to get fully immersed in the film or its characters. The numerous subplots are unnecessary and detract from the already flimsy story. The emotional scenes feel forced, though I must say I was impressed by Hill’s acting. This is probably his least funny role to date, but I was shocked by the chops he displayed during some of the more emotional scenes. You believe every word he says and empathize with his character completely.
I cannot say the same for the rest of the characters. The film’s need to create a complete catharsis for every supporting player that chances to walk in front of the screen gets old very fast. I understand the kids need to resolve their issues to create a satisfying ending, but what about Jonah Hill’s mom, or his manipulative girlfriend? Do they really require their own subplot?
Another problem is the eccentric side characters that Hill and the kids run into along the way. I don’t know what it is about these movies, but Adventures suffered from the same corny plot device. How is it possible that two already identical movies both feature scenes in which the protagonists wander into a black club and have to speak jive to gain the respect of the patrons, who help them out later in the story? Much like the way Slater’s homosexuality was handled, I found this unnecessary and borderline offensive. Sure, the African American characters are portrayed as friendly, but it isn’t like when Morgan Freeman offers Tim Robbins sage advice and uplifts us with his humble smile. They’re shown to be aggressive criminals whose sole purpose in the film is to show up just in time wreak a bloody vengeance on the bad guy, because I guess that’s all the filmmakers deemed them capable of. Seriously people, in this day and age these stereotypical portrayals of minority groups are just sad!
So why did The Sitter fail in comparison to Adventures? Honestly I think it reflects a change in people’s attitudes toward babysitting. Nowadays we’re taught from Day 1 not to get in cars with strangers, and parents are more protective of their children than ever. The thought of leaving them alone with some stranger, even for
The Special Features are well done and go along well with the movie. Your level of interest may vary according to how much you enjoyed the film, but there is an Unrated Cut, several featurettes, and a blooper reel/deleted scenes.