My Rating: 2 Buckets of Popcorn- Good Movie Worth Seeing… Family Comedy
Comedy geniuses Billy Crystal and Bette Midler team up for the first time in “Parental Guidance” which pits old school parenting against the new politically correct permissive attitudes. The movie starts out with Artie Decker (Billy Crystal) in the announcer’s booth for the Grizzlies, a local baseball team winding up their season, only to be informed that he is being put out to pasture as the team management wants to rebrand the team to make it more modern to get more support and interest. To highlight how old fashioned and out of time Decker is, the boss asks him how many “friends” he has, how many people he has “poked” lately, when was the last time he “tweeted”, all questions which Artie has quick witty responses to, such as how poking people can get you in trouble and if they want him to “tweet”, he can make any kind of noises they want him to make, trying to beg to keep his job, which he has loved doing since he was a kid and dreamed of announcing for the Giants when he was growing up.
Here come the grandparents. There go the rules!
Defeated and depressed, Artie goes home to his wife, Diane Decker (Bette Midler), walking into the middle of her pole dancing class she is having in her living room, but she immediately can see that he is upset and starts to comfort him and help him see the bright side of his unexpected retirement, only to be interrupted by a phone call from their daughter Alice (played by Marisa Tomei) to reluctantly ask them to come babysit for their 3 grandchildren, who they typically only see once a year, who they know almost nothing about, because unlike the paternal grandparents who live nearby, they are “the OTHER grandparents”.
Making good use of his new water cannon present from Grandpa & Grandma against the wishes of mom, Alice who doesn’t approve of guns, Barker teaches Grandpa Artie a lesson.
Diane sees this as their opportunity to get more involved in the lives of their only grandchildren, but Artie is more concerned with his own problems, being newly unemployed. You get the hint through dialogue between Alice and her husband, Phil (played by Tom Everett Scott) that there is a history of friction between Alice and her parents going back many years. Unlike Artie and Diane when they were raising her with strict rules and discipline, while they moved around following Artie’s career as a sports announcer, Alice and Phil are raising their kids in the new, more permissive style, such as playing sports games where there is no competition and no winners or losers, and children are never to be told “NO” or disciplined, but are instead, encouraged to choose their words carefully or to consider the consequences of what they are doing. And they are NEVER fed anything with sugar!
Upon their arrival, Artie and Diane are given the guidelines of how to handle the children while Phil and Alice go away on a trip for Phil’s work which involves the totally computer controlled house they live in which runs their daily lives from start to finish.
Youngest son, Barker doesn’t want mom Alice to leave him in Grandma and Grandpa’s care in “Parental Guidance”.
When Alice can’t rip herself away from the kids to relinquish control to her parents, it is obvious that there is going to be trouble in paradise as Artie and Diane do their best to comply with her new age way of parenting, but Artie just isn’t capable of biting his tongue when he takes his grandson for his speech therapy group class (to work on the stuttering problem he has) and they do nothing involving speaking whatsoever.
There is something for everyone in this family comedy from a cameo appearance by skateboarding legend Tony Hawk to the outrageous sight gags Billy Crystal is so famous for. The story is actually based upon Crystal’s own experience when he and his wife were called upon to babysit for his own two granddaughters. When he noticed his granddaughter coloring on the placemat at a restaurant ignoring the lines of the picture and criticized her for not staying in the lines, and was chastised for his criticisms by his own daughter who preferred to encourage her creativity as opposed to restricting her to stay in the lines, Crystal began to see the comedy possibilities this generational difference in parenting made possible and the premise for “Parental Guidance” was born. Casting Bette Midler to play the energetic, sharp-tongued grandmother opposite Billy Crystal was comedy genius and the 3 children who play the kids do a wonderful job.
At the advance screening I attended, the audience actually clapped at the end of the movie, which rarely happens unless the actors are in attendance and the audience wants to show their appreciation, but spontaneous applause just doesn’t happen that often in a movie theater! It likely won’t be nominated for any Oscars, but you will probably walk away from “Parental Guidance” with a feel-good smile on your face. I particularly liked the choice of American Idol winner, Philip Phillips’ song, “HOME” for the closing credits. “Parental Guidance” hits theaters on Christmas Day.
Please post your comments and thoughts below, and have a Merry Christmas and may we all have a healthy and Happy New Year!
Opinionated Computer Technician, former Pastry Chef, Realtor, and jack of many trades- master of a few. Avid movie goer who attends advance screenings to give his opinion on upcoming movies. Happily divorced father of two daughters and grandson. A small town guy living in the big city of New York.