On the surface this movie appears to be an 81-minute, R-rated version of Uncle Buck, but underneath simmers a bold statement about the price men pay for transgressing gender roles in the baby-sitting field.
Jonah Hill’s character Noah Griffith is a self-absorbed slacker, suspended from college.
Needing money, he babysits his neighbor’s three semi-feral children. When his girlfriend (Ari Graynor) invites him to a party with the promise of sex, Griffith packs up the annoying youngsters and drives into the land of unintended consequences.
A raunchy, hormone fest aimed at teenage boys?
Director David Gordon Green has more going for him than three names. The man who helmed the quiet romantic comedy Pineapple Express had his eyes set on deeper issues than bawdy titillation. (Though it sure seemed like that at times.)
Instead we’re presented with a sharp satire skewering American, middle-class, hetronormative experience. By electing to babysit, Griffith subtly undermines the root assumptions of male privilege. Director Green quickly punishes the character through a series of misadventures, all stemming from the protagonist’s open rejection of the status quo.
Griffith’s choice of paid caregiver is life-affirming. Rather than accept the proscribed route of the shiftless male as either slob or government administrator, Griffith instead unlocks a feminine side, ominous and threatening to men, and yet liberating in a way that removing burlap socks is freeing to the feet.
Writers Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka have a sure feel for feminist critical theory, using profanity and fart jokes to unmask gender and sexual distinctions as socially constructed prisons—but without weight rooms or HBO.
My main complaint—a small one I’ll admit—was that the film lacked a funny dog.
I really thought a funny dog trotting out of a bedroom with a bra stuck on its head would’ve been a great element. But I’ll bow to director Green’s choices. (Though it would have been easy to add.) Perhaps the studio executives cut out the funny dog in editing. Worse things have happened in cinema. Ask Orson Welles about The Magnificent Ambersons. Still . . . oh, well.
Four stars out of five for social courage and the thoughtful use of a mini van.