It’s bad enough the new Jonah Hill comedy “The Sitter” is getting blasted by most movie critics. More than a few film scribes are claiming the R-rated comedy is racist to boot.
Let’s back up a moment. The film casts Hill as a slacker forced to babysit three precocious teens. Consider it “Adventures in Babysitting” with a very foul mouth.
The foursome get mixed up with an effeminate drug dealer (Sam Rockwell) as well as some thuggish black characters (including rapper Method Man). It’s here where some critics are crying foul. Consider the following comments:
The movie tries to mine laughs from its mincing homos and scary black people, then excuses its racist, prejudiced stereotypes by making one of the kids gay and giving Jonah an African-American love interest (Kylie Bunbury). See? We’re only kidding! We don’t really mean it! This is the Birth of a Nation of low-brow comedies. – Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald
The movie’s also a serious racial offender, parading a gang of black actors around as hoods stealing cars, talking jive or looking for a fight. – David Germain, AP
“The Sitter” seems to have a good heart, so why all the glib racism? Rodrigo is no less a walking ethnic joke than the Asian exchange student in John Hughes’ “Sixteen Candles,” and there are way too many scenes of angry black people turning all smiles at Hill’s jive talk. – Rafer Guzman, Newsday
Film critics play the race card almost as readily as mainstream reporters covering Tea Party events. The tricky aspect to “The Sitter,” and to most comedies in general, is that they routinely mine humor from cultural stereotypes – the husband who can’t change a diaper, the housewife who wouldn’t know a linebacker from a free safety, etc.
What matters in “The Sitter” is that the ethnic characters in question are allowed to grow to some degree. The young Latino boy in the main character’s charge evolves over the course of the movie. So do the black characters who confront Hill’s character mid-film.
Had each character stuck to the initial script the racist charges would have more merit.
The aforementioned critics may still have a point, but what they clearly aren’t doing is giving the actors involved any credit. Would these cast members willingly foster racial stereotypes just for a paycheck? Or did they simply see the film as a raucous comedy, one which allowed them to embrace and debunk stereotypes all at once?