Aisle Seat: A misadventure in babysitting

Morning Star movie reviewer Jason Armstrong gives The Sitter one star-and-a-half out of five.

  • Dec. 18, 2011 4:00 p.m.
Noah (Jonah Hill) tries to get a leg up on thug-in-training Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez) in The Sitter.

Noah (Jonah Hill) tries to get a leg up on thug-in-training Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez) in The Sitter.

It’s a good bet that, if you’re at all familiar with ‘80s flicks, The Sitter will recall memories of Adventures In Babysitting. And given how sloppy, crass and misguided this new comedy is, expect those memories to be extremely fond ones.  You’ll miss the ‘80s. You really will.

And really, why do they struggle to make loopy, feel-good flicks like that anymore?  Instead, we have the same old clichés, only the adorable kids are replaced with precocious tykes who either dream of being a celebrity and partying at nightclubs, or rebellious ones who like to blow up public restroom toilets with cherry bombs. Charming.

The Sitter is a vehicle for the usually entertaining Jonah Hill, and his expression throughout the film pretty much sums up that he’s fully aware that he’s behind the wheel of a clunker.

Dazed and delivering his lines with little pep, Hill plays Noah Griffin, a slacker who ends up playing babysitter for the evening to give his single mom a chance to go on a blind date.

The kids are, predictably, little terrors. But it doesn’t stop Noah from taking them on a joy ride to a party in the city, where he hopes to hook up with a girl that he’s trying to impress. The trip is, predictably, a disaster, as circumstances force Noah to drag the kids into locales such as a drug den (where he tangles with the more-creepy-than-comical Sam Rockwell), a jewelry store (where he robs the joint), and a high-speed car chase, complete with bullets.  And the outcome is, predictably, pretty awful.

Director David Gordon Green, once an indie darling, but lately saddled by raunchy sludge like Pineapple Express and Your Highness, just doesn’t have the material to make The Sitter work.

The guy has a clever visual style, and even when his marquee star, Hill, is totally off base, he’s still a unique presence (if you wanna see him really shine, catch Moneyball). Still, The Sitter is just too devoid of joy and brains to ever get going. Funny how the comedy attempts to take a heartwarming turn near the finish line. By that point, it’s been so overdosed on mean spirit, what’s the point?

Oh, Elisabeth Shue, where are you?

The feature is currently playing at the Galaxy Cinemas.

–– Jason Armstrong is The Morning Star’s longtime movie reviewer. His column, Aisle Seat, appears every Friday and Sunday.