December 9, 2011

When I first saw the trailers for The Sitter, I swear on my grandmother’s soul (rest in peace, Paz Diño) that the first words out of my mouth were, “Holy cow, they’ve remade Adventures in Babysitting!”  I also remember being a little excited to see it, because if any movie were to be updated for today’s audiences, 1987’s Adventures in Babysitting could easily be made fresh and funny again.  Little did I know that I’d be a more spot-on than I thought – The Sitter is an almost plot-point-for-plot-point remake.  And as remakes go, it’s not a bad one.  However, they’re not passing it off as a remake, nor do the credits even mention that it might have been based on Adventures in Babysitting.  Why not?

Look at the similarities:
1)  Is the babysitter in a one-sided relationship, where he or she is merely a convenience to the other?  Check.
2)  Is a date broken, thus prompting babysitting duty?  Check.
3)  Does the gender layout between the children equal two boys and one girl?  Check.
4)  Does the babysitter take the kids into a big city to try and help someone who’s in trouble?  Check.
5)  Does their car get damaged or stolen?  Check.
6)  Do they all wind up at some kind of society party which the children’s parents are attending?  Check.
7)  Is there a club or bar that they go to where they’re so obviously not welcome, but are eventually accepted?  Check.
8)  Does a former semi-villain come back to help the babysitter?  Check.
9)  Does the babysitter meet someone during the course of the evening that makes the babysitter question his or her significant other?  Check.
10)  Is there a final mad dash home and a scramble near the end to try to dupe the parents into thinking that the babysitter and the children have been home all night?  Check.
I’m not going to give the ending away, but if you’ve seen Adventures in Babysitting, then you’ve seen the ending of The Sitter as well.

So why bother watching The Sitter?  What makes it different from buying and owning Adventures in Babysitting for a discounted price that probably equals the price of one movie ticket?  Director David Gordon Green – whose films have ranged from the arthouse hit George Washington to last year’s eye-gouging Your Highness – would like you to believe that by rearranging the events of Adventures in Babysitting, putting a modern spin on them and dropping a lot of cussing and violence into the mix, you’d be watching a different movie.  It works maybe half the time; the other half of the time was spent wondering when the next rote bit of exposition was going to come, or when the next moral was going to get whipped at us.  Thankfully, the movie’s not all that long, so you’re not going to feel like you’re in a two-hour morality play.

Jonah Hill is always fun to watch – his natural exuberance in even the smallest or most deadpan of roles usually makes a great time at the movies.  Here, he’s at his usual fish-out-of-water, uncomfortable best as Noah Griffith, the once-ambitious student who now lives a narcissistic life with his harried mother.  The qualities that endeared him to America in Superbad and Get Him to the Greek are still evident, along with tender moments that we don’t see from him too often, which balanced out his character nicely.  No matter how forced the script makes these moments, he has a way of making them a little more palatable with his comedic timing and delivery.

On the other side of the see-saw from Jonah Hill are three young actors who were delightful and funny, providing a nice yang to Hill’s ying.  Last seen in Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are, Max Records is blossoming into a very versatile, nuanced actor; his portrayal of the neurotic Slater gives The Sitter a decent emotional grounding, compared to that of the other two children.  Newcomers Landry Bender and Kevin Hernandez make bold statements about how their characters perceive life, respectively in the roles of Slater’s sister Blithe and adopted brother Rodrigo – she’s a reality show catchphrase-spouting addict, while he’s a destructive menace.  All three take their personal manias and make great exaggerations of them, with many jabs at popular culture and what we, as tabloid junkies, find fascinating.

There’s not much to dislike about The Sitter; quite frankly, after reading this review, I think I enjoyed it a whole lot more than I thought I did.  It’s got some pretty decent acting and a killer soundtrack – there can be nothing wrong with a movie that begins with “Children’s Story” by Slick Rick.  The movie’s “soapbox” moments can be a little tiresome, but those only last for maybe two minutes at the longest.  Overall, The Sitter is a fairly funny movie that’s worth a shot this weekend.


Reel Film News Movie Review by Eddie Pasa

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