Few could have guessed when his debut, 2000’s George Washington, wowed festival audiences that Director David Gordon Green would ever make, or be capable of, a film that opened with a bout of Color Me Badd-backed cunnilingus. Or in which the day is saved in part by Method Man. Or that featured Jonah Hill intoning at length on the virtues of a movie like The Devil Wears Prada. Granted, neither could few have predicted a pot-fused action comedy (Pineapple Express) or an ’80s-style fantasy romp boasting a severed minotaur penis (Your Highness). But of Green’s unexpected segue into trash filmmaking—not wholly shocking, given his enthusiastic forward to the epic Steven Seagal study, Seagalogy—The Sitter is the farthest of the three from his personality and the closest to a don’t-give-a-fuck for-hire job.
There’s a germ of a subversive idea here: that the prospect of Jonah Hill babysitting kids is a terrible, not cute, idea. Hill’s Noah shows no interest in his three charges, and within minutes on the job, he’s taking them on a trip into New York to score drugs so he can score tail at a Greenpoint house party. En route, Noah introduces them to stealing, rampant profanity and the world of a psychotic gay dealer (Sam Rockwell) who stocks his office with shirtless, gyrating bodybuilders.
Of course, Noah’s apathetic-hostile attitude soon drops, and soggy life lessons abound. What initially sought to play as a dark(er) Adventures in Babysitting simply turns into Adventures of Babysitting with dick jokes, as well as hugely appealing work from Hill. Relaxed and strangely confident in his final movie before shedding his weight, he’s able to rise above dicey material, escaping with dignity. Green, not so much. His attitude is too-cool-for-school but open to the occasional goofy aside or nod to junk cinema favorites (notably the Dolph Lundgren nonclassic I Come in Peace). Sometimes the nonapproach works; other times you wish he’d at least try. That Green’s camera, which once sought to emulate Terrence Malick, is now being used to drool over cleavage, need not necessarily cause alarm. But after three comedies of decreasing merit, one hopes he’d go back to imitating master filmmakers. Otherwise the next logical step isn’t more faux-hackwork. It’s actual hackwork.