BLOGS

<i>The Sitter</i>: We’ll Stick with <I>Adventures in Babysitting</i>

Considering Hollywood's current obsession with remaking every single movie released during the '80s, it's surprising that Adventures in Babysitting -- a nostalgic favorite for anyone that grew up in that decade -- hasn't already been updated into a star vehicle for some tween sensation like Selena Gomez or Miranda Cosgrove. (Word on the web is that Raven-Symoné was attached to a potential remake at one point, but that project is currently on hold.) Now those girls are going to have to find another Me Decade reboot to star in (the rights to Valley Girl and Flashdance may be available...) because the unlikely duo of director David Gordon Green and star Jonah Hill have gone ahead and made their version of Chris Columbus's 1987 after-hours comedy under the more generic title, The Sitter. Granted, this off-brand remake is a hard R-rated comedy whereas Adventures in Babysitting falls into kinder, gentler PG-13 territory, but otherwise the two movies have more in common than you might imagine, right down to the sequence in which the respective sitters drag the three tykes in their care to a potentially dangerous downtown nightclub where they're distinctly out of place.

The main difference between the two films is that Adventures in Babysitting is a consistently amusing picture with some sweet coming-of-age moments stirred into the mix. The Sitter, on the other hand, could be most generously described as a choppy mess that generates only a few mild chuckles amidst lots of tedium. This is definitely the slightest and the weakest of Green's recent foray into studio comedies, lacking the odd-couple pairing of James Franco and Seth Rogen that drove Pineapple Express and the goofy grandeur of his underrated fantasy spoof Your Highness. (Interestingly, all three movies are basically extended sketch comedy riffs on '80s popcorn cinema -- one can only assume that Green watched a lot of HBO growing up.) Here's how The Sitter and Adventures in Babysitting compare and contrast in a few key creative areas... and why Babysitting is the better movie.

The Babysitter
What's The Same: Both Chris Parker (Elisabeth Shue) and Noah Griffith (Jonah Hill) reluctantly agree to babysit their neighbors' kids after being canceled on by their respective significant others. Early in the evening though, they receive a phone call from a friend desperately requiring their assistance. So they pack the kids into a car and set off, completely unprepared for the night that's in store for them.
What's Different: For one thing, Chris is an experienced sitter, whereas college dropout Noah has no experience or interest in taking care of kids. Also, Chris's mission is simply to pick up her pal Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller) from a seedy bus station. Noah has a tougher assignment: score some coke from an eccentric dealer named Karl (Sam Rockwell) and bring it to his kinda, sorta girlfriend Marisa (Ari Graynor) at a loft party in Brooklyn. In return, she'll finally let him have sex with her.
Why Adventures in Babysitting Is Better: Whether she's dancing around to "Then He Kissed Me" in her bedroom or belting out the "Babysitting Blues" to an initially hostile, then captive audience, Chris is an appealing, likable heroine, two words that can't automatically be ascribed to Noah. To be fair, The Sitter is a star vehicle designed around Hill's distinct comic persona -- the foul-mouthed, responsibility-challenged slacker. The actor has his schtick down to a science by now and he mostly gives the audience the Jonah Hill they showed up to see. At the same time though, the movie wants Noah to do a little growing up as well and that's where The Sitter falls flat. Chris's evolution from doormat to take-charge woman makes sense for the character, while Noah's transformation from prickly asshole to prickly asshole who suddenly likes kids seems dictated by outside forces like studio notes and commercial concerns.

The Kids
What's The Same: Chris and Noah are both responsible for overseeing a trio of kids, including a young girl, her older brother and an extra boy who tags along for the ride. In addition to smart mouths and precocious attitudes, these youths have an innate ability to get themselves in trouble, which serves to make an already long night even longer.
What's Different: Chris's charges include a Thor-obsessed 8-year-old (Maia Brewton), a gawky teen (Keith Coogan) who's not-so-secretly in love with her and his horny best friend (Anthony Rapp). Noah, meanwhile, is keeping an eye on a celebutante-obsessed 9-year-old (Landry Bender), an anxiety-prone, sexually confused thirteen-year-old (Max Records) and an adopted ten-year-old (Kevin Hernandez) who's having trouble fitting into his new family.
Why Adventures in Babysitting Is Better: Alternately charming and obnoxious, the kids in Babysitting resemble actual kids. In contrast, the children in The Sitter are primarily broad comic types -- the little girl who says inappropriate things, the aspiring metrosexual and the Latino gangbanger-in-training -- with deep-seated personal problems that Noah is expected to diagnose and cure with a good talking-to. Chris just wants to get her kids through the night in one piece, not also analyze them like some kind of trash-talking Dr. Phil.

The Love Interests
What's The Same: Chris and Noah are each initially paired with S.O.'s who just aren't into them. Chris's boyfriend Mike (an absurdly young Bradley Whitford) feigns being sick to spend time with a slutty co-ed, while Marisa is happy to let Noah go down on her every now and then, but otherwise pines for her kickboxer ex-boyfriend. During the course of both movies, the sitters each encounter new and better love interests -- stand-up guy Dan (George Newbern) in Babysitting and lovely astronomy nut Roxanne (Kylie Bunbury) in The Sitter.
What's Different: Apart from the gender switch, not that much, honestly. Whitford and Graynor are both appealingly smug as the Mr. and Mrs. Wrong and Newburn and Bunbury are cheery non-entities as Mr. and Mrs. Right.
Why Adventures in Babysitting Is Better: Dan's interest in Chris makes a lot more sense than Roxanne's attraction to Noah. We're meant to believe she likes him because she thinks he's "funny," but the way she overlooks certain aspects of his behavior makes us thinks she's either really oblivious or a pre-programmed Fembot.

The Setting
What's The Same: Both movies strand their privileged suburban characters on the mean streets of the big city.
What's Different: In Babysitting, that big city is Chicago; The Sitter unleashes Noah and his brood in New York.
Why Adventures in Babysitting Is Better: Columbus shot the film in Chicago and made great use of local landmarks, especially the climax, which takes place atop the famous Smurfit-Stone Building. The Sitter was also apparently filmed on location, but it doesn't feel like a New York movie at all. I'm not saying that Green should have randomly inserted a scene where the kids get lost at the Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center, but it's disappointing how the film treats the real-life Big Apple like a generic studio backlot.

The Adventures
What's The Same: Chris and Noah's big nights out involve them running afoul of criminals (car thieves for her, drug dealers for him), causing a fair amount of property damage and repeatedly losing the kids before managing to make it back home just as the kids' parents show up.
What's Different: There's considerably more gunplay and physical violence in The Sitter, as drug dealer Karl and his right-hand man Julio (JB Smoove, whose comic skills are largely wasted here) repeatedly comes after our heroes with firearms blazing. And Noah himself isn't above flouting the law when it suits him, even breaking into his estranged father's jewelry store in order to secure the funds to get Karl off his back.
Why Adventures in Babysitting Is Better: While the scrapes Chris and her kids find themselves getting into aren't necessarily more realistic than the ones Noah and his three accomplices confront, they are more creatively thought out and depend less heavily on the threat of physical harm befalling our young (and even younger) heroes. Put another way, Adventures in Babysitting is fun to watch, while The Sitter is more painful than fun.

Which movie characters would be a worse babysitter than Jonah Hill? Check out our gallery here.

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