‘The Sitter’ (2011) review: Making love to the night

‘The Sitter’ a ‘Hangover’-lite comedy, this time with kids

With the success radiating from “The Hangover” and “Bridesmaids” and the like, it’s not surprising to see other comedies trying to emulate their success. So, producers and directors think, what can be added to draw even more people in? How about children dropping curse words every few minutes, blowing up restaurant bathrooms and beating down a local MMA fighter? And though “The Sitter” doesn’t quite pull it all together, it’s by no fault of the hilarious cast, helmed by a hilarious if directionless Johan Hill.

“The Sitter,” however, is shockingly absurd. A rehash of “Adventures in Babysitting,” “The Sitter” realizes every parent’s worst nightmare about leaving their children with those who may be unsuited to be around children. And Noah (Hill, “Superbad”) is the prime example of a young man who should not be charged with the surprisingly difficult task of caring for three children.

At the behest of his mother, Noah, a college dropout desperately in need of a life, reluctantly agrees to mind three children for pay. But nothing in raunchy comedies can ever be so simple. A seemingly apathetic director David Gordon Green (“Pineapple Express”) sends this hapless fool on a “Hangover”-style errand to secure cocaine for his manipulative “girlfriend,” Marisa (Ari Graynor). And it all spirals out of control from there, even if some cliche spots of emotional growth for our main character and his charges are in the cards.

Running through Manhattan instead of Vegas or Bangkok, Noah and his charges begin their misadventure with broken household staples, with the sticky situation cascading exponentially as the New York night speeds by.

There’s a drug dealer: Karl “with a K” (Sam Rockwell, “Moon”), whose minions include a lisping roller skater, bikinied male bodybuilders and JB Smoove from “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Karl is a little Tony Montana, a little Tommy DeVito from “Goodfellas,” with a lair part gay nightclub and part muscle gym. He’s as likely to hug Noah as he is to shoot him.

And while it may seem the entire movie would spin out of control in Looney Tunes-like chaos, the hit-and-miss script (Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka) doesn’t take any actual risks even when it seems as if the filmmakers are trying to. You’d think a movie in which children are in the same car as an exploding package of cocaine would be edgier, but in this age of jaded cynicism and heightened expectations for debauchery, no one even batted an eyelash.

But for all of Noah’s faults (and there are many), his wards are just as much in need of transformation as he is. A winning combination, oldest Slater (Max Slater, “Where the Wild Things Are”), little Blithe (Landry Bender) and adopted son Rodrigò (Kevin Hernandez) suffer neuroses on par with “Hangover’s” Alan and “Bridesmaids'” Annie, though each goes through a Disney-like transition into a better, healthier kid.

And though the sex and drugs are commonplace, the sheer shamelessness about race is surprising. From its rap and R&B soundtrack, to the casting of Wu-Tang Clan’s Cliff “Method Man” Smith, to the in-your-face sistah Tina (Samira Wiley), it’s clear this comedy is made by that generation of filmmakers who feel a little gangsta themselves.

In addition, Hill brings a touch of humanity to this smart-aleck movie, a needed touch to help elevate it from being merely filthy.

But don’t be fooled: “The Sitter” earned its R rating. It’s a comedy with kids, not for kids.

Two drug-induced stars out of five.

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Jonah Hill, right, is shown in a scene from "The Sitter." (Photo credit: Twentieth Century Fox)

Jonah Hill, right, is shown in a scene from “The Sitter.” (Photo credit: Twentieth Century Fox)

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