The Sitter Review

Get used to this routine in preparation for The Sitter: characters in car, find a location, kids have a personality moment, chaos ensues, return to vehicle. Repeat ad nauseum for 80-minutes.

That’s the structure, breaking any sense of surprise between the admittedly hilarious raunch that permeates this oft uncomfortable R-rated comedy. Sometimes you have to wonder if the child actors wish to watch their performance, only to end up in the theater viewing a movie that begins with Jonah Hill performing oral sex. Awkward.

Sitter has this weird obsession with the ’80s, as if it’s trying to reclaim the magic of Adventures of Babysitting without any of the quirky charms. However, it never decides whether it’s going all the way or not, with the score clearly pushing an electronic synth and TVs displaying ’80s movies/shows. Then it shifts into an era of text messages and GPS tracking. It’s one thing to pay homage, another to confuse the viewer.

Jonah Hill plays Noah, a jobless 20-something suckered into babysitting three kids who aren’t so much characters as they archetypes. Most of Sitter is like that, from a bar filled with caricatures of black people, drug dealers who openly profess they’re gay, and the rich snobs who might as well walk around with their noses pointed at the ceiling.

At the center of it all is Noah, turning into a sure-to-be-convicted felon as he robs a jewelery store, steals a car, smashes up a van, and commits assault. The cops don’t care either; they’re treated even worse. During a traffic stop, they steal Noah’s crack and lifted diamonds while posing for pictures with the perp. Even if the kids “learn” as the movie pushes on, they still act beyond their age, and are situated in wildly irresponsible scenarios. At least Adventures had Thor to protect them.

Sitter isn’t devoid of laughs. That’s probably more important to the piece than anything else. In the end, regardless of its myriad of clumsy structural techniques and loopy treatment of dated stereotypes, it is a comedy. Hill plays to his strengths even if the character is increasingly unlikeable, and the awkward one-liners spur The Sitter forward. In-between those laughs however are uncomfortable interludes and miscalculations that weigh too heavily on the end result.

Movie ★★★☆☆ 

Sony’s AVC encode for Sitter proves a capable one, generous in resolving a lightly layered grain structure that for the most part, is hardly visible. If it seems to be swarming, it’s doing it in the background, and doesn’t impede beyond the general look of a film stock. Nothing is degraded to noise.

While this Jonah Hill starring flick keeps the depth rolling in the first act, by the third it becomes a struggle. The multitude of green screen effects inside the car bog down the black levels, turning them into a dull blue shade that robs the image of a natural look. Things start to tumble right at the half way mark, and while it does inconsistently work on par, too often it loses focus.

Bright, peppy saturation will keep flesh tones natural without an overly aggressive orange tint. That’s almost an act of mercy these days. Primaries are pushed forward with a relative boldness, especially helpful to a number of early exteriors. The trees are incredibly vivid. Since much of the film takes place at night, darkness will dim some of the energy, although what escapes from the dwindling light still carries weight.

Sitter forges ahead with acceptable high fidelity detail, close-ups resolved keenly while maintaining a natural, filmic appearance. Focal softness dims certain shots, while a resolute sharpness keeps most of the movie in check. While not a continued display of Blu-ray superiority, there’s enough eye-friendly material to warrant a bit more than a general pass.

Video ★★★★☆ 

Out of nowhere, The Sitter turns from a dull, quaint comedic mix into an explosion of bass. It’s reminiscent of Social Network, wherein a single edit produced room shattering LFE to deliver the sense of being in a club. It happens around 27:40 in Sitter as the kids sit within the car and a booming stereo fires full blast. The rattle it can produce is certainly replicating those muddy car trunk stereos that thump on the trunk annoyingly.

There’s an explosion later of a store front that doesn’t even come close to said music, even though it produces a booming dose of LFE on its own. However, that feels more in balance and in check with the rest of the mix.

Nothing stands out for The Sitter elsewhere (the key difference between it and Social Network aurally), a droll, almost silent mix that only peps up when it’s pushing the soundtrack. A sequence in the subway offers no specific directional work, or ambiance as the characters ride in it. Most of it is drowned out by music, although that’s not much of an excuse.

Audio ★★★☆☆ 

Eleven deleted and extended scenes also include an alternate ending, one that clearly needed some work to put together. It’s surprising the change ever happened. A short gag reel has a laugh or two, but the improv in Sits-‘n-Giggles has more. For Your Consideration features Landry Bender acting goofy on the set, while a making-of is better than the norm with plentiful behind-the-scenes footage, not simple pandering. Jonah the Producer has the pandering.

Trailers and BD-Live junk remain.

Extras ★★☆☆☆