Parental Guidance

Parental Guidance photo starrating-3stars.jpgBilly Crystal and Bette Midler play Artie and Diane, grandparents that cling to the old guard of parenting. Artie isn’t above using the threat of a spanking. Marisa Tomei is Alice, their daughter. She and her husband Phil played by Tom Everett Scott, are new-agey parents in their 40s. Their kids are named Harper, Turner and Barker for goodness’ sake! They promote hip, contemporary child rearing ideas. Instead of acting up, they offer ‘use your words’. Rather than saying ‘no’ they try ‘consider the consequences’. Both parenting styles clash when Phil wins an award and the couple must travel out of town to accept it. Alice asks her mom and dad to watch their overly coddled kids and of course problems arise. I will admit that on paper, Parental Guidance sounds like a recipe for disaster and indeed the critical reviews would support this. However I had a much different reaction. This is a light hearted frolic concerning family that upholds traditional values in a refreshing and yes, very funny commentary about raising kids.

The nicest surprise is that everyone is extremely likable. Despite opposing points of view each individual comes across as a human being with valid concerns. No one is used as the butt of jokes, treated as buffoon to be ridiculed. The two older kids are a somewhat bland, but at least they’re not the typical precocious little brats that usually populate these types of pictures. Special mention should go to Kyle Harrison Breitkopf as Barker, the youngest child. He’s a red headed imp that wrings laughs simply from his goofy demeanor. He could stand some discipline. There’s a subplot of sorts involving the ultra modern “smart house” in which the younger parents live. Father Phil is a high-tech inventor and has created a prototype domicile with a command center that announces guests in a robotic voice. It also seems to have a personality with full rein of the various appliances. I legitimately laughed out loud when the house loudly inquires if Grandpa Artie would like to continue watching R rated horror movie Saw with little Turner just as Mom walks in the room.

Parental Guidance is a sweet, warm family friendly comedy. Director Andy Fickman has built a solid career on directing these kinds of films. Like The Game Plan and Race to Witch Mountain, Parental Guidance has been successful with audiences, if not the critics. Granted it isn’t innovative. If you’re looking for Hitchcockian twists and turns, I’d have to challenge why you’d choose a PG rated comedy from Walden Media in the first place. You sort of know that the assorted contrivances will predictably work out in the end. But the journey in getting there is amusing and therein lies the fun. The story mines humor from the generation gap. The subject of parenting is explored in a humorous and delightful way. The tone is cheerful and comforting. I was surprised at how balanced the screenplay is too. The evenhanded script goes to great lengths to present an objective view of each adult with faults as well as virtues. They all are united in the fact that they want what’s best for the kids. There’s a genuine respect for these characters that rarely panders to the lowest common denominator. Alright when Billy Crystal’s crotch meets a child’s baseball bat, that’s kind of an exception.

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19 Responses to “Parental Guidance”

  1. I was skipping this, but based on your review, maybe I’ll at least check it out on DVD.

  2. Sounds a lot better than I expected but Billy Crystal often surprises me with these sorts of throwaway comedies that work so well. Nice to see him, and indeed Bette Midler, in front of the camera again.

    • I would be inclined to agree with you. I actually find Billy Crystal to be quite likable in these “throwaway comedies“ as well. I think the last movie he actually starred in was Analyze That way back in 2002.

  3. Okay, originally I had no plans to see this movie. The reviews were awful and it just seemed dumb. I was so wrong. I didn’t expect anything, but got so much. It was simple, I admit. But just a fun loving joy ride. I also thought all the characters were likable. I also give it 3 stars.

  4. Ha! Never put all of that together about the kids names, LOL 😀

    You liked it substantially more than I did, I think but it is sweet (to a fault basically) and light. I wouldnt really argue any of your points here, I’d just say my mileage varied. 😉

  5. I’m guessing–and correct me if I’m wrong–you saw this because of the cast? Marisa Tomei and Billy Crystal are undoubtedly great performers, but this looked like a really stupid movie.

    I was surprised you gave it three stars, but I haven’t seen it, so I can’t say. Believe it or not, I had predicted 1.5!

    This does, though, seem like a pretty predictable movie. I’ll try to check it out, but I won’t expect any surprises. We were down in North Carolina this weekend, and my sister wanted to go see this while my cousin, my mother, and I saw Zero Dark Thirty. She would not quit talking about it. Eventually, I told my cousin to just spoil the ending for her so she just wouldn’t care anymore. He (who had already seen it and thoroughly enjoyed it) said: “Spoilers! The parents get less strict in the ending.” I was surprised by the low amount of sarcasm in his voice, to tell you the truth.

    • Yeah I don’t think it’s possible to spoil this movie because the film entertains with the course to the inevitable happy conclusion. Did your cousin mention the X Games, an imaginary kangaroo named Carl or the violin audition? If not, there are still some surprises in store! (mild sarcasm)

      P.S. I saw this because it was free.

      • I just saw this. Can’t say I was disappointed, but I’m pleased that it wasn’t horrendous. Let’s just say the most obvious point I made in my review was that it’s as “unpredictable as the sight of birds in the early morning.” 🙂

    • Burt the reviews were scathing for some reason. Never understood that.

      • I can understand it. The movie is, at times, obnoxious and we’ve seen it all before. Basically the same reason Adam Sandler gets awful reception usually.

  6. I’m totally with you Mark – 100%. And looking at all the comments here, it really does seem we’re the only two to have enjoyed this movie in the slightest!

  7. You’re right, on paper this sounds like a recipe for disaster. It’s encouraging to hear that you enjoyed it and that everyone comes across as human beings that you care about. I’ve always thought that Billy Crystal is hilarious, so if there was anything enticing me to see this it would be him. Maybe I’ll rent it at some point.

  8. One of my co-workers who is in her mid-40s kept talking about this movie and what a hoot it was. I looked at her like >___>…

    I’ll give it a chance!

    “He’s a red headed imp that wrings laughs simply from his goofy demeanor. He could stand some discipline.”

    ^ lol

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