The Sitter
Directed by David Gordon Green
Starring: Jonah Hill, Max Records, Kevin Hernandez, Landry Bender  
Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, drug material and some violence
1 hr. 21 mins.

This movie is strange on so many levels, and that’s not a good thing. I’m talking head-scratching strange, as in how can a movie this bad be released at the height of Oscar season? It’s like showing up on a Paris fashion runway in old blue jeans and a ratty sweatshirt.

But here we are with a talented director in David Gordon Green, and a talented comedian in Jonah Hill. Green has directed such comedies as Pineapple Express and the raunchy HBO TV series Eastbound and Down. Hill has starred in classics like Superbad and Knocked Up, and his recent work in Moneyball might actually secure him an Oscar nomination.

So what the hell happened here?

Noah Griffith (Jonah Hill) is a sit-on-his-ass college dropout whose primary interest in life is to watch TV and give his hot-and-cold girlfriend oral sex. He’s called in at the last minute to be a fill-in babysitter for some family friends who have set up his divorced mom with a date at a local charity function. The friends have three children: Slater (Max Records), who has panic attacks; Blithe (Landry Bender), whose main goal in life is to be a fashion celebrity; and Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez), who looks and acts like a mini-gangbanger from East L.A. Noah has to hang with these kids until 1 a.m. The question is: Will he survive to see daylight?

You can see where this is going. The kids are unruly. Noah gets a call from his girlfriend. She’s horny and wants to party. One bad thing leads to another until the whole film turns into chaos. What’s unforeseen is how unfunny it all turns out. How bad? Consider this: Rodrigo urinates publicly on the floor during a bar mitzvah, and Noah the hetero horndog and ex-drug dealer counsels Slater about being gay.

There are two major problems with this film — writing and acting. Sitter feels like a film student’s first draft that had barely cooled before being pulled from the printer. Maybe screenwriters Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka did rewrites and forgot to save the changes. Maybe they just sent the wrong version to their Hollywood office. Maybe no one really bothered to read the script.

Unfortunately, what translates from the pen carries over to the screen. The end result is something like this: Three kids travel in a stolen vehicle while Noah rides into New York City to get his maybe girlfriend Marisa (Ari Graynor) some drugs so that she’ll have full-on sex with him while the kids wait in the car.

That’s your story?

It’s possible to be raunchy and funny — Superbad, for example. It’s possible to have a good story about babysitting — Adventures in Babysitting comes to mind. It might even be possible to make a raunchy comedy about babysitting, but this film sets that idea back several centuries.

Here’s what I suspect: Sitter was probably scheduled to have a summer dog days release some time ago, but fell on a back shelf and was conveniently forgotten. When someone finally pulled it out of mothballs, the marketing department scoured the calendar and circled a slow weekend in December. “Let’s drop this bomb here,” they said as they winked. “Make a little money, get rid of some bad product, then go do our Christmas shopping.” Problem solved.