Directed by David Gordon Green. Starring Jonah Hill, Max Records, Kevin Hernandez, Landry Bender, Sam Rockwell, Ari Graynor, J.B. Smoove, Kylie Bunbury. (2011, R, 82 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Dec. 16, 2011
I hate to join the chorus of nags, but come on, Gordon Green: Stop dinking around. I say this with great respect and affection for the still-young filmmaker's admirably eclectic body of work, which ranges from early arthouse films like George Washington and All the Real Girls – back when, quite crucially I think, he was still authoring or co-authoring his own scripts – to a recent, more commercially minded period that kicked off with 2008's Pineapple Express and was followed by this spring's Your Highness. That last one was a roundly roasted ode to Eighties fantasy epics; I personally found it to be a wonderfully silly spot of fun. But Gordon Green's latest feature exercise in backwards-glancing, The Sitter, is a nonstarter. It recalls its genre antecedents (think After Hours and Adventures in Babysitting) in concept – here, Jonah Hill plays a reluctant babysitter lugging three kids in a minivan through Brooklyn while dodging a sulky drug dealer (Sam Rockwell) – but never gets at the same itchy spirit of anarchy. There's real energy to the way Gordon Green and Cinematographer Tim Orr lens the nighttime cityscapes, but the film's set-pieces are static, built on predictable bits (from screenwriters Brian Gatewood & Alessandro Tanaka) of cocaine explosions and kids mouthing off like minigangstas. I liked Hill's mellow-keyed delivery, and the emotional scenes are quite delicately played. I admit to about a half-dozen moments of high-pitched "heh!" – sort of a duck-honk approximation of amusement, I guess – but for a comedy, The Sitter is frightfully spare on full-bodied laughs.