Jonah Hill, the man we know as being that really funny, fat guy who stars in all those Apatow movies. He’s made quite the name for himself since his big break in 2007’s Superbad, which was the sleeper hit of the year. Now, in 2011, he’s following in the footsteps of his peers (and close friends), Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow, by taking a somewhat more dramatic approach to film while still maintaining his goofy, lovable, and sometimes misguided humor.
Recently, Hill lost a substantial amount of weight for his role in the upcoming film, 21 Jump Street, a remake of the hit series that he co-wrote, set to release in March. The sudden and surprising weight loss has been the target of much scrutiny by his fans, who have started an internet trend, taking still frames of his films, adding a caption about his obesity, and ending with, “Stay fat, Jonah Hill”. Hill himself has embraced his new lifestyle, and definitely acknowledges that everyone wants him to gain his weight back.
In Jonah’s last “overweight” movie, The Sitter, he plays Noah, a crass man-child who’s been kicked out of college and has to live with his mother. When her ride to a party where a date awaits her cancels because their babysitter couldn’t make it, Noah has to unwillingly step in to save the day.
The Pedulla’s are a wealthy family with three children: Slater (Max Records), an overanxious and marginally confused wreck of a thirteen year old, Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez), an El Salvadorian pyromaniac who could probably get enough dynamite to blow up a building, and Blithe (Landry Bender), who’s going through a “clubbing and partying” phase at the age of eight. Ready to go nowhere, Noah suddenly gets a call from his friend Marisa (Ari Graynor) who promises to have sex with him if he gets her cocaine. Instantly, he packs the kids into the mini-van and takes a wild ride through the dirtiest and scariest parts of New York City.
If The Sitter is anything, it’s completely implausible, but it’s also surprisingly sweet and quite funny. The character of Noah bounce well off the completely unruly behavior of the children. They each have their own subplot, in addition to Noah’s central conflict, that makes the movie’s short 78 minute running time fly by with ease.
The character of Noah was one that seemed to be written for Hill personally, and it’s a role we’ve seen him play before, but he plays it so damn well that I could never get tired of it. The man is a very talented actor, and at such a young age, his filmography is so diverse and solid, that his future is looking extremely bright. The children are played so well, and they each stand out in their own special way, even if at first it does come off simply as crass and unnecessary.
The screenplay, which was penned by first timers Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka, is a strong enough debut to get the ball rolling for them, but not strong enough to guarantee them a successful career in Hollywood. I find this interesting to note because I’ve noticed a lot of big name stars and directors who have been picking up screenplays by first time writers.
The surprise scene-stealer, though, is Sam Rockwell, who plays Karl, a crazed drug dealer who begins hunting down Noah after Rodrigo steals a large amount of very valuable cocaine, and then proceeds to break its container. Rockwell plays Karl with an almost natural ferocity that is as funny as it is terrifying. He’s another actor who’s able to play almost any character, a chameleon in the acting world.
Directed by David Gordon Green in his second feature film of 2011, the first being the absolutely awful medieval stoner comedy, Your Highness, his quick zooms and fast editing gave the film a very 70s blaxploitation feel to it, which, when accompanied by the soundtrack, and some of the catchphrases that Jonah Hill uses throughout the picture, really confirms my suspicion that that was what they seemed to be going for. Green, who is probably best known for directing the 2008 action stoner comedy, Pineapple Express, isn’t a bad filmmaker, but his 2011 critical reception hasn’t been anything resembling welcoming (Your Highness holds a 24% on Rotten Tomatoes, The Sitter has a mere 22%), and unless he gets hold of a gem, he may be reduced to directing cookie-cutter comedies such as this. Green is one of a somewhat large group of graduates of the North Carolina School of the Arts, other notable names being Danny McBride, Ben Best and Jody Hill, three people who are currently running the black comedy scene.
The Sitter is saved by its usually funny script and dedicated performances, but for all intents and purposes, it’s a movie we’ve seen before. The plots are familiar, the jokes are familiar, but the presence of Jonah Hill and the somewhat gritty take on New York is enough to keep this film afloat.