The pitch probably went something like this: “Uncle Buck” meets “Adventures In Babysitting” meets Judd Apatow.
How can it lose!
Well, it loses bigtime in the opening scene when our protagonist, Noah Griffith (Jonah Hill), is seen performing oral sex on Marisa (Ari Gaynor), a girl who refuses to return the favor and is using him for all kinds of selfish reasons. Desperately awkward and dealing with issues brought on by his father abandoning him, Noah rationalizes the one-sided relationship into a mutual one that will eventually put him and the children put in his charge in all kinds of danger.
Slacker Noah doesn’t normally babysit, but makes an exception to help out his mom. Naturally, each of these three kids is dealing with their own separate issues. There’s Blithe, the Jon Benet-ish celebutante; Slater, the thirteen year-old loner with an old soul; and Rodrigo, the adopted fire bug and all around menace. A phone call from Marisa promising Noah actual intercourse if he delivers is enough for Noah to pack the kids up into the their family minivan for a road-trip into the big bad city. Naturally, a number of endlessly recycled misadventures ensue.
There are a few funny moments, especially early on when Noah meets the kids, but the off-putting language and tone set during the film’s oral-sex opening eventually returns and sticks. The foulest of words coming from little Blithe doesn’t make you laugh but does make you want to call social services to report the young actresses parents. But the worst moment comes when Noah concludes that all of Slater’s “issues” are the result of his repressed homosexuality. It’s a warm and sincere moment where were taught a lesson in tolerance and that the word “faggot” is bad thing … in a movie filled with drug use, loveless sex, and the foulest of language coming from pre-teens.
There’s also an element of prop-dom in the use of the film’s Black characters, who are reduced to stereotypical street thugs — walking, talking ethnic jokes who speak only in over-the-top slang but are easily tamed and won over by Noah’s weak jive talk. Normally, I’m the last person to notice such a thing, but if the message is one of interracial harmony, the delivery is awfully condescending.
The film’s only true bright spot is the where-did-she-come-from? Kylie Bunbury, who plays Noah’s eventual love interest (and the only likable person in the movie). The young actress only has a few scenes, but thanks to her beauty, presence, and charm, they’re the only ones worth paying attention to.
Other than that, I suggest you pass.
“The Sitter” is available at Amazon.com.