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Sit Out 'The Sitter'

Dave hope he would like "The Sitter," but you can't always get what you want.

I wanted to like The Sitter ever since I saw the movie posters that included a fake phone number you could call for an amusing message. Unfortunately, that bit of guerrilla marketing was about the most amusing thing about the picture.

The cinematic formula of foul-mouthed kids under the tutelage of an irresponsible adult is time-honored and has been done well. Revisit the original Bad News Bears (1976) for proof of that (Chris Barnes’ Tanner Boyle is the second-greatest character in American cinema, behind only Robert Duvall’s Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now).

However, The Sitter fails to execute that formula, and the script is weighted down with convoluted morality lessons straight out of Adam Sandler’s diary.

Noah Griffith (played by an unlikeable Jonah Hill), a babysitting newbie and currently suspended from college, is enlisted to watch three neighbor kids for an evening. However, the plot thickens when Noah agrees to procure some cocaine for his girlfriend, who is at a party in New York City (Noah and the kids reside in some dreadful suburb resembling Naperville).

This plotline, and it’s early on, is where the point of the movie gets lost. It gets an R rating, due to foul language and drug content. But the kids Noah is babysitting are believable and worthy of another script. Lose the blow and calm down on the language, and you’ve got an amusing PG-rated movie the family can enjoy.

The kids Noah is watching could carry this film in a calmer setting. Slater (Max Records) is a young teen battling anxiety issues, and Blithe (Landry Benner) is a young girl dressing and talking way past her age (one of the few laughs I did utter was when Noah referred to her as JonBenet Ramsey). Far and away the most amusing, however, is Rodrigo, the adopted child wearing pajamas and cowboy boots throughout. Rodrigo is prone to blowing up toilets with cherry bombs — a favorite prank of Keith Moon’s (cherry bombs were literally his explosive of choice). More on Moonie later.

There are elements of this movie that will have you lightly chuckling, if you’re paying attention. We’re treated to a Sammy Davis Jr. impersonator (when’s the last time you saw someone imitating the Candyman, man?), and the name of Noah’s estranged father’s store is Neal’s Diamonds.

Far and away, the most delightful filmdropping (I think I just invented some terminology) that occurs here is the director’s sublime references to 1979’s The Warriors, that gang-driven adventure through the Big Apple (and still my favorite New York movie). At the end of The Sitter, a group of shirtless thugs resembling one of The Warriors’ gangs surround Noah’s minivan, and a footchase eventually ensues. The techno music inserted here is reminiscient of the music from the timeless 1979 movie, and the chase eventually ends up near an amusement park carousel as well. The bad guy gets a drubbing from what seems like 50 people, much like the end of The Warriors.

It’s a cool reference, but it’s not enough to salvage this one.

But there are far worse ways to spend $5.25 than by watching The Sitter. Remember kids, going to the first show on a Saturday morning is cheap entertainment. Until you add in a breakfast of popcorn and Coke (more on that later).

Quotable Moments:

Generally, the script was too peppered with f-bombs to have suitable quotes for a family website, but here goes:

“Babysitting sucks, adult men don’t babysit” — Noah

“The Bible’s a hot book” — Blithe

“What did I tell you about fireworks in the house?” — Mrs. Pedulla to Rodrigo

“I did not invite these nerds to my Bat Mitzvah” — Wendy Sapperstein

Other Observations at the Moviehouse:

  • The upcoming Project X features a car speeding into a swimming pool, naked people frolicking, thrown food and stuff on fire. Yep, the script seems to be following a few key points from Keith Moon’s 21st birthday party in Flint, Mich., in which the madcap drummer nakedly drove a Lincoln Continental into the Holiday Inn swimming pool, relying on the laws of physics he learned in the Sea Scouts to narrowly escape death. Along the way the Who earned a lifetime ban from the Holiday Inn franchise, which seems like a blessing nowadays.
  • Whatever happened to that long-rumored biopic of Moon, anyway? Last I heard, Roger Daltrey was producing and Mike Myers was set to portray the lead character.
  • Exorcisms are really getting complicated, according to the previews for The Devil Inside. The priest conducting the procedure is armed with multiple cameras, laptops and other complicated multimedia aids. What happened to an old-fashioned crucifix being sufficient to cast out demons?
  • Medium popcorn and a medium Coke = $10.75! Guess I should have eaten breakfast.
  • You can’t improve perfection, but the preview for The Three Stooges looked downright hilarious. Sometimes when the cinema is filled with the unfunny likes of Daniel Craig, a good eye-poking gag aimed at Snooki can be encouraging. The upcoming pic stars Sean Hayes (Larry), Will Sasso (Curly) and Chris Diamontopolis (Moe).
  • I must be getting soft because the previews for 21 Jump Street also looked pretty amusing.

I was again amused at the way film previews are geared toward the audience of the upcoming picture. Judging from the ones I saw yesterday, 2012 at the cinema will be a year filled with cleavage, car chases ending in injury and teens partying. Last week I thought 2012 would be filled with pirates, escaped animals and Dr. Seuss.

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