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Review: Parental Guidance – A comedy about grandparents, for grandparents

Posted by on December 25, 2012 – 12:10 am

Parental Guidance© 2012 Twentieth Century Fox Film
It would be so easy to eviscerate Parental Guidance, the new comedy film starring the veteran actors Billy Crystal and Bette Midler, and it is so tempting to do so as I can think of a 100 ways to humorously rip on this movie; but I’m feeling overly charitable today. Maybe it’s because of the holiday season, or maybe I’m being influenced by Jean Valjean’s inspirational story in the new Les Misérables film; either way I’m going to try very hard to be objective and write this review from the standpoint of those that might actually enjoy this movie – kids and grandparents – of which I am neither.

Billy Crystal plays Artie Decker, a play-by-play broadcaster for a minor league baseball team. He has aspirations of one day working for the big leagues, but as the film begins he is fired from his long time job as the owners try to bring in new blood and reinvigorate their business. Poor Artie can’t keep up with all the newfangled techie terms like “hashtags” and “pokes.”

Artie comes home distraught and finds his wife Diane (Bette Midler) in the middle of her pole-dancing workout routine with her friends. You can tell immediately that Crystal & Midler are not playing against type in this movie, given his love of baseball and her diva background.

The older couple’s estranged daughter, Alice (Marisa Tomei), has three kids who very rarely see the grandparents, but when her husband (Tom Everett Scott) wins a business award and must go out of town to receive it, Alice is forced to ask her parents to watch the kids so she can attend the ceremony with her husband.

Parental Guidance© 2012 Twentieth Century Fox Film
Artie & Diane accept the request in hope of spending some quality time with their grandchildren, whom they barely know, but the kids have been raised in a new age parenting process that the older couple is not used to; that and their house is rigged with all sorts of computer technology that Artie & Diane have no idea how to operate. Formulaic wackiness ensues while the grandparents teach the kids a few old tricks about parenting and, of course, they learn a few new lessons themselves.

I’ve seen a lot of bratty kids in a lot of bratty kid movies over the years and as unruly jackanapes go, the children in this movie are not that annoying. This is a big plus, as I’ve certainly experienced worse. Harper is a musical prodigy who just wants to be a normal kid, Turner is a quiet kid with a stutter who gets picked on by the bullies and the youngest child, Barker, is a little hellion who outwits Artie out of cash at every turn when the grandparent pays him off just to behave. Of course, Grandma & Grandpa help them all to overcome their respective issues and they are all the better for their experience.

Parental Guidance© 2012 Twentieth Century Fox Film
Crystal & Midler are fine in this film, but word to the wizened, it’s time to lay off the plastic surgery (see Kenny Rogers) and age gracefully. It’s always a pleasure to see Marisa Tomei, although I have to admit that she is not quite as appealing as a Mom with three kids as she is playing the sultry Mona Lisa Vito in My Cousin Vinny.

For me, there were only a few funny moments in this very run-of-the-mill comedy, but I have to say that in the screening I attended, there were a lot of older folks and kids who absolutely loved this movie and laughed all the way through it, even applauding at the end. (I’m assuming because they enjoyed the movie and not because it was over … Sorry, I really am trying to be nice here…)

All joking aside, we need movies like Parental Guidance to keep the universe in balance and I do think this is a very decent family movie that you can feel safe taking your kids or your older parents to over the holiday season (or better yet, send your parents with the kids while you go see Django Unchainedyou’ll thank me later.) Grade: 4/5