Review in a Hurry: We have to wonder if director David Gordon Green has his whole “remaking comedy genres of your youth” thing out of his system yet? Because frankly, he isn’t that good at bringing (or pacing) the funny. Even with a pre-slim Jonah Hill in the lead.
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The Bigger Picture: If you thought Pineapple Express was the height of hilarity, perhaps you’ll appreciate director Green’s loose, unofficial remake of Adventures in Babysitting. If not, please join us in wishing he’d return to the more meditative art flicks like All the Real Girls. Can’t blame the guy for wanting to make a paycheck, but when it comes to humor, he seems to be learning very little about timing. Or audience identification.
Hill’s Noah Griffith initially seems like an almost-grown-up Eric Cartman, oblivious to how much other people hate him, and overly mothered by his single mom, whom he forces to do things like pick up the phone even when it would be easier for him. But he’s not without conscience: In order to facilitate mom’s hot date, he agrees to babysit her friend’s kids.
Naturally, they turn out to be a handful, albeit due to one-note dilemmas that will rather obviously be remedied by movie’s end. Slater (Where the Wild Things Are‘s Max Records) is under-confident and over-medicated, while younger sister Blithe (Landry Bender) is a tot who dreams of being the next Kardashian. And then there’s a foster-sibling, Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez), an ill-conceived character who embodies every negative Latino stereotype short of wearing a sombrero. With slicked-back hair, full knowledge of all things criminal and a penchant for tossing bombs, he’s offensive primarily because he’s so unrealistic and impossible to relate to.
Then, to thicken the plot, Noah gets a call from his transparently hateful “girlfriend”(Ari Graynor), who insists she’ll put out if he drives across town immediately and gets her some cocaine. Here is another place where Green majorly misses the mark. Most comedies that strand suburbanites in a scary city after dark are effective because the protagonists are generally innocent, hapless victims of circumstance. Noah is a dick who blatantly endangers kids so he can buy drugs and trade them for sex. Do we really care if karma kicks his ass in return? (Recall that Elisabeth Shue only brought her supervised children into danger to try to help a stranded friend in need.)
Like Green’s other comedies, The Sitter frequently feels like it should be hilarious, but never quite is. The funniest parts are when Hill turns his lines into tangential riffs, and one suspects this is him improvising rather than any thanks to the script.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Max Records proves himself more than a one-hit wonder with a genuinely sensitive performance as Slater. He’s the only character you really don’t want to see get hurt.
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