Written by Brian Gatewood & Alessandro Tanaka
In all my years I have never held the occupation of babysitter. I was always the youngest in my family and never had to stay home to watch younger siblings or cousins or neighbors, so my experiences are not in relation to the protagonist in this film. However, the manner in which he is portrayed does hit home a little bit and that is of the "nice guy" and that of the young adult stuck living at home. My circumstances are a little different in that I was not a college dropout, I have a degree, but yet I still live at home. Directed by David Gordon Green, I went into this film looking for DGG to bounce back after a very poor performances behind the camera for Your Highness, which came out earlier this year.
Noah (Jonah Hill) is the babysitter in question, but he is not experienced in the profession either. He sits at home doing nothing, brainwashing himself into thinking he is in an actual relationship with Marisa (Ari Graynor). But when his single mom is excited about the opportunity of meeting a surgeon their neighbor set her up with, Noah must step up to the plate and babysit the neighbor's kids. However, Noah struggles to balance his desire to further his relationship with Marisa and the eclectic group of kids he has to look after. As a result they all embark on a night filled with crazy, including the unorthodox drug dealer Karl (Sam Rockwell). So I guess the question becomes, what will it take for these kids, Noah included, to come through?
After the disappointment of Your Highness, which I had in my Top 10 most anticipated at the beginning of the year, I was not overly excited about this film, especially given the complete lack of buzz for it. I had low expectations and was looking for nothing other than a good time, and that was all that I got. This film, and I hate comparing, is definitely better than Your Highness, and it does it with less talent on screen. It is a quick romp through a ridiculous and unlikely night, but it manages to entertain and provide its fair share of laughs if one does not take the film too seriously.
There are plenty of times when the jokes don't work perfectly or the plot does things that need not happen, or are unlikely to have happened, but what makes the film work on any level is the cast of characters. Noah is the nice guy protagonist, but the children around are good too. Max Records has had a nice little childhood career which continues here in his portrayal of Slater. Blithe is a nice character too and between the two, screenwriters Gatewood and Tanaka make an interesting point in pop culture and the state of childhood influence. They paint with broad strokes and often fall into stereotypes, which is not surprising given it is their first screenplay, but they also bring up some interesting character arcs.
The film is far from perfect and will not please all, and probably will not bring David Gordon Green back to prominence, especially among cinephiles, but I had a good time with it. There was a sense of humor about it reminiscent of the successful DGG outing Pineapple Express. With the inappropriate, immature humor mixed with some depth. The film is not overly dramatic or deep, but there are hints of the indie darling DGG was before hitting the mainstream comedy circuit. With this film I am hopeful that he is headed back in the right direction, but it is hard to tell. I would love to see him return to his indie ways, a la Gus Van Sant or Steven Soderbergh, but as it stands I still think he has enough talent to make a great movie. So while I may not rush out to his next film, I will still give him the chance to make a full return to form.