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The Sitter: Totally Irresponsible Edition Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

The Sitter (2011) movie poster The Sitter

Theatrical Release: December 9, 2011 / Running Time: 81 Minutes (Theatrical), 87 Minutes (Unrated) / Rating: R (Theatrical), Unrated / Songs List

Director: David Gordon Green / Writers: Brian Gatewood, Alessandro Tanaka

Cast: Jonah Hill (Noah "J-Bird" Griffith), Max Records (Slater Pedulla), Ari Graynor (Marisa Lewis), JB Smoove (Julio), Sam Rockwell (Karl), Landry Bender (Blithe Pedulla), Kevin Hernandez (Rodrigo Pedulla), Kylie Bunbury (Roxanne), Erin Daniels (Mrs. Pedulla), D.W. Moffett (Dr. Peter Pedulla), Jessica Hecht (Sandy Griffith), Bruce Altman (Jim Griffith), Cliff "Method Man" Smith (Jacolby), Sean Patrick Doyle (Garv), Alex Wolff (Clayton), Jack Krizmanich (Ricky Fontaine), Grace Aronds (Twin #1), Jane Aronds (Twin #2), Lou Carbonneau (Maitre'D), Samira Wiley (Tina), Sammuel Soifer (Benji Gillespie), Kevin Townley (Valet), Reggie A. Green (Soul Baby), Nick Sandow (Officer Frank), Nicky Katt (Officer Petite), Eddie Rouse (Lounge Singer), Gracie Bea Lawrence (Wendy Sapperstein), Jackie Hoffman (Mrs. Sapperstein)

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What an exciting time it is to be Jonah Hill. The actor who everyone kind of assumed would forever be identified as "the fat kid from Superbad" turned heads at last fall's premiere of Moneyball, where he showed off a dramatic weight loss,
supposedly of forty pounds but seemingly more than that, his new gaunt, short-haired look nearly unrecognizable. That primarily off-the-field baseball drama earned Hill an Academy Award nomination for Supporting Actor, an honor no one expected of a Grandma's Boy and Strange Wilderness cast member.

While he was in the same conversations and category as accomplished actors Christopher Plummer, Kenneth Branagh, Max von Sydow and Nick Nolte, Hill was also experiencing something that none of them had in a long time, nor he ever before: his very own solo vehicle. Hill had been kept very busy in the years since his 2007 breakout, appearing in a number of Judd Apatow productions, popping up in assorted supporting roles, and lending his voice to several animated films. But the end of 2011 gave both power and responsibility to the 28-year-old.

On television, Hill was a creator, an executive producer, and the star of Fox's animated series "Allen Gregory." It was poorly reviewed and cancelled after just seven episodes. In theaters, he was an executive producer and the only performer to receive above-the-title billing in The Sitter.

In "The Sitter", reluctant babysitter Noah Griffith (Jonah Hill) takes his three young wards (Kevin Hernandez, Max Records, and Landry Bender) on an unforgettable night of big city adventure.

The Sitter is to Adventures in Babysitting what Due Date was to Planes, Trains & Automobiles: a cruder, racier, uncredited virtual remake of a sweet, funny, and fondly-remembered 1987 comedy. Hill plays Noah Griffith, a college expellee who has never had a real job in his life. Noah reluctantly adds to his employment history by agreeing to serve as a last-minute replacement babysitter, so that his loving divorced mother (Jessica Hecht) can be set up at a social function she was greatly looking forward to.

Jay heads over to the matchmaker's home, where he is placed in charge of three kids: anxiety-addled 13-year-old Slater (Max Records, Where the Wild Things Are), celebutante-obsessed young Blithe (Landry Bender), and pyromaniac Salvadoran adoptee Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez).

Adventures in Babysitting sent Elisabeth Shue and her wards to the big city (Chicago) to help a friend in need. The Sitter's motivations are less magnanimous. Noah wants to meet up with Marisa (Ari Graynor), who he considers his girlfriend, at a party for sex (and not just the one-way kind he provides in the film's Color Me Badd-backed opening scene). First, though, Noah's got to pick up some cocaine for her friend, a mission that takes him into a strange Manhattan underworld of bodybuilders and roller skates. It is the world of Karl (Sam Rockwell), an eccentric who assigns ranks to his best friends and quickly takes to Noah (whom he places at number eight).

The three young ones along for the ill-advised adventure in their family minivan complicate the evening for Noah: setting off cherry bombs in the bathroom, stealing an expensive cocaine-filled egg, and defecating themselves. He rolls with the punches and runs into two female former classmates, one of whom (Samira Wiley) jacks his ride and the other of whom (Kylie Bunbury) displays romantic interest more noble than Marisa's.

In New York City, Noah runs afoul of eccentric drug dealer Karl (Sam Rockwell) with a K. In one of the film's more heartfelt moments, Noah (Jonah Hill) drops some wisdom on anxiety-addled Slater (Max Records).

Although the tone preferred by today's R-rated comedies is an unflinching one,
big on irony and gut-busting outrageousness, the debut feature screenplay by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka makes room for some heart and slight sentimentality, as Noah imparts wisdom on his young charges on a night full of self-discovery. That brings The Sitter close to Vin Diesel's The Pacifier, the kind of movie it seems to be making fun of. And it is likely to leave viewers here purely for irreverent laughs a little flat. But it does ground the movie slightly, adding sincerity and personal growth to what at the first several glances appears to be a contrived anything-goes farce. It's a quality that also defined Pineapple Express, director David Gordon Green's leap from celebrated indie fare to mainstream studio comedies.

The retro feel arising from the debt owed to Chris Columbus' directorial debut extends to the soundtrack, which is chockfull of vintage hip-hop beats from the likes of The Sugarhill Gang, Slick Rick, 2 Live Crew, Biz Markie, and The Pharcyde. That adds a little personality and pizzazz to a movie that has a bit of potential to become a cult favorite down the line.

The Sitter did not fare much better than "Allen Gregory", drawing mostly negative reviews and falling at the low end of box office expectations. The not yet profitable $30 million domestic gross stands almost as its worldwide tally, since most foreign markets haven't seen fit to bother with a theatrical release. Hill, though, has already rebounded, as a writer, an executive producer, and the top-billed star of the highly acclaimed, well-attended 21 Jump Street. Perhaps heeding the advice of his Funny People character ("there's nothing funny about a physically fit man"), Hill seems to have already regained the weight he lost (evidently for Jump Street). And his next movie, Neighborhood Watch with Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn, sounds like one of the year's most promising.

The Sitter showed up on DVD and Blu-ray combo pack this week, each "Totally Irresponsible Edition" presenting the film in both theatrical and unrated cuts. The unrated edit runs 5 minutes and 50 seconds longer. Accounting for the difference is more time in Karl's lair and with him and fellow villain Julio (JB Smoove), as well as some brief additional end credits. The short, taut theatrical cut, which runs just 81 minutes with end credits, is clearly the better of the two.

The Sitter: 2-Disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.85:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, English DVS)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, English DVS), Dolby Surround (French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
DVD Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in standalone DVD ($29.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Blu-ray's 1.85:1 transfer is pretty terrific, boasting a clean, sharp image. The visuals and presentation are not striking enough for this to be a demo-quality disc, but complaints are sure to be very few and far between, if at all. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is equally satisfying. Its prominent use of '80s and '90s hip-hop does not require adjusting the volume. Dialogue remains crisp and clear, while a few bits command notice (like the booming bass of the kids' minivan music listening).

The bloodied shirt is just Julio (JB Smoove) and Karl having a bit of fun with Noah in this deleted scene. Landry Bender makes music in the backseat of a green screen car ride in "For Your Consideration."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

In this combo pack, all of the extras are exclusive to the Blu-ray Disc and all are presented in high definition.

Ten deleted/extended/scenes (25:54) are presented. With an 81-minute runtime, these clearly were not cut for time considerations. Instead, they're just not at all very good. If nothing else, the section illustrates that editing saved the film from being the dud that many critics nonetheless accused it of being. Some, but not all of the unrated cut's additions and extensions are included here

A gag reel (2:37) consists of goofs, goofing around, and hiccups. "Sits-N-Giggles" (3:09) showcases Jonah Hill and cast mates' improvisations, from alternate cultural references to spontaneous banter. "For Your Consideration" (1:01) does not, as you might expect, play upon the fact that this movie stars an unlikely Oscar nominee. Instead, it features young Landry Bender making music in the minivan.

Jonah Hill shoots a knowing look at the B-roll camera while his young co-stars act their age in "The Making of 'The Sitter.'" Taking his executive producer duties seriously, Jonah Hill teaches his young co-stars in the mockumentary short "Jonah the Producer."

"The Making of The Sitter" (15:23) takes us behind-the-scenes for Jonah Hill sarcasm, cast fart mysteries, fake firings, child actor candor, and a tour of Karl's bizarre lair. It's a fun featurette.

"Jonah the Producer" (4:59) is a mock featurette which catches Hill talking to (and hitting on) the child actors' parents and teaching their kids. It falls a little short of its marks,
but it's more amusing than a serious piece would have been.

The Sitter's green band theatrical trailer (2:11) is kindly included.

The Blu-ray Disc opens with trailers for The Three Stooges, This Means War, and Immortals. The "Sneak Peek" menu provides access to these as well as a promo for "Wilfred."

With an Internet connection, "Live Extras" offers more trailers and some bonus feature excerpts. Not bad for free, but stream and download times still leave something to be desired.

The combo pack's DVD contains only the theatrical cut. For bonus features, it offers only digital copies of the unrated version in MP4 and iTunes formats. The DVD sold on its own includes both cuts of the movie plus "Jonah the Producer", "Sits-N-Giggles", and the gag reel.

The menu offers a standard montage of clips. The Blu-ray supports bookmarks, but did not resume playback for me. The two discs claim opposite sides of an eco-friendly Blu-ray case, topped by as snug cardboard slipcover and holding an insert of directions and an activation code for the digital copy. The cover art makes clear that Fox and Jonah Hill will not retire their promotional efforts for the film anytime soon. The phone number prominently listed is one fascinatingly possessed by Hill, who answered some of the many calls to surprise, while allowing a recording to field most of the others.

Officer Frank (Nick Sandow) takes a celebratory photo with Noah (Jonah Hill) and his police sketch. At a party, Noah (Jonah Hill) defends his girlfriend (Ari Graynor) in front of the ex she still has feelings for.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Sitter is not nearly as much fun as the 1980s comedy it unofficially remakes. Still, this R-rated version is reasonably diverting in a similarly escapist way, proving to be a vehicle well suited to Jonah Hill's comic talents. It's not great art, but more often than not, it is funny. Fox's Blu-ray combo pack serves up two versions of the movie plus a mostly okay hour of bonus features. The disc warrants a rental and those expecting to watch it many times and in many ways should be satisfied buying this set.

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Related Reviews:
Jonah Hill: Superbad Cyrus Strange Wilderness Moneyball Funny People Knocked Up Megamind
New: The Muppets Jack and Jill Young Adult Like Crazy The Ring (Blu-ray) RoadRacers
Sam Rockwell: Galaxy Quest The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Gentlemen Broncos Everybody's Fine Glory Daze
Max Records: Where the Wild Things Are | Kylie Bunbury: Prom | Ari Graynor: Youth in Revolt Date Night
Adventurous Guardianship: Drillbit Taylor The Pacifier The Spy Next Door Mary Poppins Mrs. Doubtfire
R-Rated Comedy: Take Me Home Tonight Due Date 30 Minutes or Less Bad Teacher Fright Night Step Brothers

The Sitter Songs List: Color Me Badd - "I Wanna Sex You Up", Slick Rick - "Children's Story", "American Anthem", Jan Hammer - "I Come in Peace", Kreayshawn - "Gucci Gucci", The Pharcyde - "Runnin'", "Soul Groove", "Something's Gotta Give", Sugarhill Gang - "Apache", Rupert Holmes - "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)", "Dove Sono -- From the Marriage of Figaro", Bleep - "Rubber Lover", 2 Live Crew - "Hoochie Mama", Stephen Boyd - "Good As It Seems", David Wingo - "Workin' It Out", The Steam Machine - "Let the Feeling Begin", Hasidic New Wave - "First Look", Greg Wall and the Simcha All-Stars - "Hava Nagila", Raphael Saadiq - "Subway Song", Ava and the Avalanches - "Ski Baby Ski", "Scorpion", Jeff McIlwain - "Pulling Up", The Jungle Brothers - "Because I Got It Like That (Ultimatum Mix)", Blahzay Blahzay - "When We in the House", Ohmega Watts - "Where It All Started (Featuring DJ DNA)", FBruce - "Creepin'", Jeff McIlwain - "Moving Out", Cults - "Go Outside", Escort - "Cocaine Blues", Nice & Smooth - "Come On", Small Town Romeo feat. Shad K - "Boom Ha", Raphael Saadiq - "Sometimes", Biz Markie - "Just a Friend", Slick Rick - "Need Some Bad"; Unrated Cut Only: Fiasco - "Fiasco_Those_Feelings-JP", L.J. Nachsin - "Miss Saturday Night-JP"

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Reviewed March 22, 2012.



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