Synopsis: Old school grandfather Artie (Billy Crystal), who is accustomed to calling the shots, meets his match when he and his eager-to-please wife Diane (Bette Midler) agree to babysit their three grandkids when their type-A helicopter parents (Marisa Tomei, Tom Everett Scott) go away for work. But when 21st century problems collide with Artie and Diane’s old school methods of tough rules, lots of love and old-fashioned games, it’s learning to bend – and not holding your ground – that binds a family together.
Release Date: December 25, 2012 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Comedy, Children and Family
The last time viewer’s got a glimpse of Billy Crystal, and a taste of his humor, was during the 2011 Academy Awards telecast. It didn’t go so well. His first (non-animated) feature film since 2002’s Analyze That is a family comedy, fatefully called Parental Guidance, also starring Bette Midler, as his wife, and directed by Andy Fickman–the culprit behind 2010’s You Again. Billy Crystal is an icon as a comedian, but when he signed on to Parental Guidance his judgment must have been slightly impaired. Guidance is what Parental Guidance is sorely in need of, even with its strong bouts of sentiment that are forced upon the viewer.
The story is as simple as it gets with a family comedy. Grandparents Artie (Billy Crystal) and Diane (Bette Midler) are the black sheep’s of the family. Their daughter Alice (Marisa Tomei) allows them to see her three children once a year, at best, and that is enough for her, and her husband Phil (Tom Everett Scott). It’s not that Alice doesn’t love her parents, she simply has deeply routed issues with how they raised her–being tossed around the country so her father could pursue his career as a minor-league baseball announcer. Well, out of desperation, as the beloved grandparents are busy taking a cruise, Alice must ask Artie and Diane to watch the kids while she and Phil attend a work-centered event out of town. While they are perfectly capable of taking care of the children they do not understand the new ways of upbringing Alice and Phil subscribe to; or the super-modern home they live in–think Apple’s Suri program, on steroids. The new ways and the old ways are about to collide in Parental Guidance, but the getting to the sentimental parts, where you emphasize and embrace the intricacies of a family and acceptance take a great deal of patience.
The entirety of the film focuses on the lack of ability Artie has with connecting with his grandchildren, or the difference in beliefs on how a child should be raised. Phrases like “use your words” and “you owe me three ups” abound in the film, and while much work has gone into trying to make this “new way” of child rearing appealing it comes across from the onset as idiotic. The old ways prevail, where discipline exists and keeping score at a baseball game is a natural way to teach children a form of healthy competition. Parental Guidance tries very hard from start to finish to say something about the times, and Billy Crystal and Bette Midler do their best to keep the movie afloat–even with a disastrous song and dance number. The children don’t help matters as they are of course each given their respective cliche–the overachiever, the weird one, and the self-esteem lacker. But when it comes to casting child actors the odds are tough, and while the two boys, Joshua Rush (Turner) and Kyle Harrison Breitkopf (Barker), are passably decent, Bailee Madison (Harper) was in need of greater direction. A scene where she attacks a cake like a deranged psychopath due to a sugar high is her lowest point in the film, and it was a tough choice. Adding to the usual familial drama is a side story of Artie trying to get a job as an announcer for the X Games–a strange desire at his age, especially when he does not know what they are until the day before the audition.
While it would have been easy to give Parental Guidance the lowest production score possible it plays right into the viewer’s hands, and heart, in the third act; redeeming itself and becoming a heartfelt movie full of the familial warmth everyone is a sucker for now and again. Crystal’s Grandpa Artie becomes a part of his grandchildren’s lives and has improved them for the better over only the course of a few days. The old ways of child rearing are definitely viewed as making a positive comeback in today’s society. Alice reconciles with her parent’s and the photos on the mantle of them are no longer stuffed in the back, hidden away from prying eyes. Parental Guidance is never going to be a good movie, but it could have been worse if it didn’t know exactly what to do in the end to make everyone leave the theatre having had their heart touched upon–its all movie magic, and the formula succeeds once again.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Andy Fickman
- Screenwriter(s): Lisa AddarioJoe Syracuse
- Cast: Billy Crystal (Artie)Bette Midler (Diane) Marisa Tomei (Alice)Tom Everett Scott (Phil)Bailee Madison (Harper)Joshua Rush (Turner)Kyle Harrison Breitkopf (Barker)
- Cinematographer: Dean Semler
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Marc Shaiman
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA