I am putting so much effort into not automatically hating a movie based on a regurgitated plot premise that I barely have enough time to do normal things, like change the oil in my car or take over my great aunt's asthma medication that I picked up from the pharmacy in 2007. I walked into this movie with a mantra: Adventures in Babysitting plus Pineapple Express plus Superbad can't be too bad. I know that's something close to what studio executives thought. They were actually sort of right, but unfortunately, a couple of missteps make it a film better suited for compost to fertilize another re-hashing of this "one crazy night" tale that we're sure to see again sometime soon.
The set up is old hat--Noah Griffith (Hill) is a kid who has enough of a soul that he decides to help out his single mom so she can go on a group date with friends. He agrees to babysit the three children of her friends, but his cluelessness causes him to drag them along when he buys drugs for his tease of a "girlfriend" (Ari Graynor, who is the Meryl Streep of irritating and mildly amusing drunk lady-friends). Things go from bad to worse quickly, and he attracts the wrath of a kooky-but-dangerous drug dealer (Sam Rockwell), meets a group of African-Americans so stereotypical that the NAACP will have to get a new phone line to address everyone's complaints, and of course steals a car.
Jonah Hill is a good choice to put at the forefront of a movie like this. He's a funny dude who never fails to elicit a laugh, and he even held his own earlier this year dramatically in Moneyball. He's earned his stripes, so when he flutters his hands and makes a bird noise in someone's face, or rhymes words like "respect" and "neglect," it's worth a courtesy laugh. His tiny co-stars are also cute enough, although the word "hot" is overused by the little girl named Blithe (Landry Bender), and there's only so many times I can see a toilet exploding before I check my watch.
Where the movie comes to a complete halt is when it attempts to teach life lessons. Hill has moments where he counsels a homosexual kid, tries to jump start a non-existent relationship with his absentee father, and even randomly tells Blithe what the meaning of her name is (it's "joyous," by the way). I want to see my Jonah uttering profanity and bootlegging liquor--the only kind of advice I need from him is who his real-life nutritionist is. Otherwise, keep the forced sentimentality out of my R-rated picture. That just bums me out.