In Parental Guidance, sentimental works
By Roger Moore MCT | Monday, December 24, 2012
1/2 (out of five stars)
Cast:Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei, Tom Everett Scott, Bailee Madison
Rated: PG for some rude humor
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
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The family-friendliest movie comedy this holiday season is also the sappiest and schmaltziest.
And thanks to Billy Crystal, the shtickiest.
“Parental Guidance” is a mild-mannered riff on parenting, then and now. It contrasts the top-down/career-first mentality of one generation with the coddled “nurturing” of today, but never takes a stand on which is better. Basically, it’s a vehicle for Billy Crystal, and to a lesser degree Bette Midler, to riff on the spoiled, overindulged and sometimes uptight kids their kid is raising.
Artie (Crystal) is a minor league baseball announcer who never got to his dream job, covering San Francisco Giants games. He’s content to make homespun wisecracks in front of the mike for the Fresno Grizzlies. Until they lay him off before being not hip, not social media savvy.
His retired “weather girl” wife Diane (Midler) interrupts her pole-dance aerobics class to comfort him and listen to his lies about how young he “feels.”
“You’re 38? Paint the house!”
Daughter Alice (Marisa Tomei) is a Web designer living in Atlanta with husband Phil (Tom Everett Scott).
Their kids — 12-8-5 — have play dates, ballgames and rehearsals. Violinist daughter Harper (Bailee Madison) would discover boys, if she wasn’t stressing over a big audition that sets up her Berlin Philharmonic life plan. Turner (Joshua Rush) is a bullied stammerer whose little league doesn’t keep score, denying him the chance to excel. Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf) is a mop-topped terror with an imaginary kangaroo friend.
Into this world come “the OTHER grandparents,” the West Coast couple that never sees them because Artie has been all about the job all his life. They’re not the first choice, but Phil and Alice have a getaway planned — if only Alice can let go.
Whatever Artie and Diane did with Alice isn’t good enough for Alice’s kids. She takes their finicky dinner orders, by text. The kids aren’t allowed sugar, are ferried hither and yon to appointments. Tofu mom Alice never lets them hear the word “No.”
There are sparks between generations, but with the exception of Madison, the child actors are in over their heads and the adults seem as if they’ve just met.
At least the sentimental stuff works. And the toilet jokes.