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Movie Review: Jonah Hill’s Inconsistently Funny The Sitter

Jonah Hill’s is a deceptively odd presence. He somehow manages to combine the laid-back stoner charm of a Seth Rogen with the nervous, rapid-fire awkwardness of a Steve Carell. It’s hard at first to pin down exactly where on the spectrum of his persona The Sitter fits. The opening scene has him giving epic head to a furiously climaxing Ari Graynor, but then getting refused when he asks that she return the favor. She’s ostensibly his girlfriend but is clearly just using him for his skillz. As the saying goes: Lucky in cunnilingus, unlucky in love. Or something.

Hill’s character Noah Griffin is supposed to be some kind of loser — he doesn’t have a job, still lives with his single mother (Jessica Hecht), and lets himself get pushed around — but The Sitter doesn’t quite have the time or the energy to really commit to that. Rather, the story, which has Noah agreeing to babysit a wealthy family’s three very different and quite strange kids, with predictably chaotic consequences, basically uses him as a chameleon. He’s the kind of pushover who will gladly go score a drug deal for someone else.

The film wants to revel in his ineptitude but also gives Noah a surprising number of chances to carry the day, without much setup. He walks into a club by talking up a bouncer like he's the playingest of playas. He runs into a woman he wronged in high school (he got drunk and puked in an urn containing her grandma’s ashes) and bravely lets her take a punch at him. When he realizes that one of the kids he’s babysitting is most likely gay, he immediately gives the young man a surprisingly touching, It Gets Better–style speech. Strangely enough, though, that speech is offset by the bizarre caricature of Karl (Sam Rockwell), a flamboyantly deranged drug dealer who rolls with an entourage of rollerblading boy toys and scantily clad musclemen.

In other words, this is one confused movie. But it’s not an altogether unsuccessful one. That very inconsistency at some point begins to feel like part of the whole design. Much like he did with the far more elaborate Pineapple Express, director David Gordon Green helps bring a sense of anarchic possibility to the hard-R boilerplate: This is the kind of movie where a screaming man with his crotch on fire can still find time to yell, “That’s how yo’ mama like it!” to a cab that refuses to take him. It’s so off-the-cuff and all over the place, you wonder if they ever even had a script.

Or maybe it’s just a disaster that’s been salvaged in an editing room somewhere. It’s hard to tell — the film is so short and unassuming that we don’t have much time to dwell on things like plot or character inconsistencies. It’s certainly funny at times, the actors seem to be having fun, and that anything-goes spirit can keep you wondering what’s going to happen next. The Sitter feels slapdash and quick, but you might not want to have it any other way.