“Parental Guidance” is a shockingly bad family comedy starring Billy Crystal and Bette Midler. Crystal’s Artie was a longtime minor league baseball announcer who just got fired because he’s not contemporary. Midler’s Diane is a former weather girl who used to sing some of her forecasts. Gee, I’d love to have lived in the cities where she was on the air. They have a daughter Alice (played by Marisa Tomei), who’s married to a technology wiz named Phil (Tom Everett Scott).
Phil’s getting honored with an award for his creation: a home voice monitoring system. Wait, hasn’t that been done before? Anyway, Artie and Diane are asked to take care of their three wacky grandchildren (because no kids in family films these days can ever be normal) while their parents go away to the convention. The problem is, Artie and Diane rarely see their grandkids and have become “the other grandparents”. So the two decide to give their grandsons (one has a stutter, the other’s just “movie weird”) and stressed-out, achievement freak granddaughter a week to remember.
This script needed a complete makeover. What’s on screen is an incredibly obvious, unfunny and often awkward and uncomfortable to watch. There are way too many of what were intended to be cute/clever scenes jammed into 105 minutes, and practically every one is phony and over-the-top. There’s forced slapstick, completely unrealistic situations and not a single likeable character. Believe it or not, Crystal is the one who came-up with the concept for the film. It was then adapted into a screenplay by Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse, two of the writers behind 2007’s quality animated film “Surf’s Up”. Clearly they’re better at writing about imaginary penguins than real people.
Director Andy Fickman is best known for Disney’s “The Game Plan”. He needs a new one when it comes to choosing projects. “Parental Guidance” is filled with stereotypes and resorts to groin humor. And you know one of my basic rules of comedy: when the writers have to rely on a guy getting hit in the groin to get a laugh they are admitting their movie is a lost cause. And, of course “Parental Guidance” tries to mix in some sentimental moments as well. This only helps it gain the title as one of the corniest films of the decade. It seems this was simply a vehicle for the two leads to do what they like to do: Crystal gets to crack bad jokes and do baseball play-by-play and Midler gets to do a showcase song (“Book of Love”) with Crystal. At least the baseball element plays a part in the film. The song comes out of nowhere and leads to nothing.
Skateboarder Tony Hawk makes a cameo appearance (in a subplot involving Artie trying out as an X-Games announcer) but he seems as baffled as to what’s going on as everyone else. There are constant mentions of ESPN (there had to be a business deal) and Tomei and Everett Scott play two of the blandest, dullest parents ever seen on screen. Everett Scott catches a break – he’s missing for most the middle portion of the movie.
Both Crystal and Midler seem to be going through the motions. This is her first real movie role since 2008’s “The Women” (voicing a character in “Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore” doesn’t count). Crystal has a couple of humorous lines, but he’s so much better than this that it was kinda sad watching him here.
About the only thing the creators of “Parental Guidance” got right is that the film is appropriately rated PG for some rude humor. I can’t recommend anyone waste their time watching this mess. It was #3 on my Worst Movies of 2012 list.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Parental Guidance” gets a D-.