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(2011) (Jonah Hill, Max Records) (R)

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Comedy: A college dropout agrees to babysit three kids, but finds them more than a handful as the evening quickly gets out of control.
Noah Griffith (JONAH HILL) is a college dropout who agrees to babysit another family's three kids so that his divorced mom can go out on a date. The kids are 13-year-old Slater (MAX RECORDS), an overly sensitive and timid homebody teen; his younger sister Blithe (LANDRY BENDER) who fancies herself an adult and thus wears too much makeup, has a sassy attitude and listens to hard core rap music; and Rodrigo (KEVIN HERNANDEZ), their adopted sibling from El Salvador who has a weak bladder but a penchant for blowing up toilets with cherry bombs.

Once Noah meets them, he realizes babysitting won't be as easy as he thought, but things get more complicated when his girlfriend, Marisa (ARI GRAYNOR), calls and promises to have sex with him if he'll pick up some cocaine for her from drug dealer Karl (SAM ROCKWELL). He agrees, and what follows is a night of mishaps and increasing complications, as well as a run-in with his former college classmate, Roxanne (KYLIE BUNBURY), who has a thing for him.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
Back in the late 1980s, the old babysitter movie storyline was revamped and sent in an unlikely direction in Chris Columbus' "Adventures in Babysitting" where Elisabeth Shue's teenage character and the three kids she's in charge of end up -- through a series of mishaps and such -- on quite a night out on the streets of the Windy City.

Two years later, John Hughes took that same idea and gave it a slightly older slant in "Uncle Buck" by changing the babysitter from a female teen to an unemployed man (John Candy) who ends up watching -- surprise, surprise -- three kids in --- yes, you guessed it -- Chicago again, complete with a number of scenes featuring places and things one wouldn't normally do with children in tow.

Now, two decades later, former indie film director turned raunchy comedy helmer David Gordon Green revisits the basic plot but ups the ante in "The Sitter." Sporadically amusing but otherwise a repetitive, not exactly original and sometimes rather mean-spirited comedy, the film follows "Buck" in having an adult -- although I use that term loosely as it's Jonah Hill playing a college dropout -- watching three kids.

One of them is an overly sensitive and timid homebody teen (Max Records); another his younger sister (Landry Bender) who fancies herself an adult celebrity player, complete with an overload of makeup, sass and a tendency to sing along to hard core rap songs; and the third is the family's "adopted" exchange student (Kevin Hernandez) who's a budding pyromaniac with bladder issues.

What follows -- in the script by Brian Gatewood & Alessandro Tanaka -- is what's supposed to be an outrageous comedy where the sort of guy who should never be asked to babysit gets stuck with three kids who are walking advertisements for birth control. And when Hill's character is asked by his girlfriend (Ari Graynor) to score some cocaine for her from a drug dealer (Sam Rockwell) in exchange for later promised sex, we just know all sorts of wild hijinks are going to ensue.

They do, and the film promises to be a raunchy, updated and R-rated combo version of the above two movies, complete with foul language, sexually related material, drug use, scantily clad bodybuilder henchmen, some bits of jive talking, and even some quieter and subdued moments of introspection and awareness. The latter are designed as an effort to give the film some heart, but they feel like clumsy attempts to excuse some/much of the rowdy behavior that occurs before them.

Hill is game, as usual, for the material, playing the type of character who will eventually grow up into the sort of always put-upon characters often played by Ben Stiller, minus the frat boy mentality but bearing years of such abuse that have robbed his spirit. Those playing the kids are marginally okay for what's asked of them, but that's not much beyond their one-note characteristics. And really, do we need to see and hear a young girl dropping the F-bomb, saying she "sharted" in her underwear and such?

Gaynor is nothing short of obnoxious as the manipulative girlfriend, and while I suppose that's the point, that doesn't make any of it entertaining (and it's never explained why she'd be with a guy like Hill's character, not that it really matters, all things considered). And the otherwise talented Sam Rockwell is wasted in a part that's designed to be flamboyantly funny, but mostly comes off as anything but that.

If there's one thing the film has going for it -- beyond the mercifully short running time of just 80 minutes -- it's the sporadic funny line of dialogue or goofy behavior that occasionally got this otherwise perturbed critic to crack a smile or chuckle out a laugh. Otherwise, it's predominantly a lame and not particularly funny, clever or imaginative update on the old babysitting flick. "The Sitter" rates as a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed December 6, 2011 / Posted December 9, 2011

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