What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Parental Guidance is a mostly kid-friendly family comedy about the tension between grandparents' old-style parenting and their daughter and son-in-law's Type-A helicopter parenting. There's some rude and scatological humor -- e.g. "poopy head," "fartie Artie," a grandfather being hit in the testicles with a baseball bat, and a man vomiting on a child. A grandfather's suggestion to stick up for yourself leads to his grandson punching his bully and then getting hit in the eye in response. Several brands are mentioned, particularly ESPN, but the product placements aren't generally overwhelming. There's a little drinking by adults, some mild suggestiveness (including references to a couple's romantic role playing), and some kissing.
What's the story?
Artie (Billy Crystal) and Diane (Bette Midler) Decker are slightly estranged from their only child, Alice (Marisa Tomei), who lives across the country with her family. But when Alice and her husband, Phil (Tom Everett Scott), need a babysitter in order to attend a business awards ceremony, they reluctantly turn to her parents. Desperate to see her grandchildren again, Diane convinces a melancholy Artie, who has just lost his job as a minor-league baseball announcer, to be the "A" grandparents for once. After they arrive, the Deckers quickly realize that middle-school music prodigy Harper (Bailee Madison), stuttering wallflower Turner (Joshua Rush), and rambunctious Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf) could use a little of their grandparents' more laid-back approach to parenting.
Is it any good?
It's sad to report that the combination of brilliant comedian Crystal and the multi-talented Midler doesn't amount to much in this uninspired, "everything funny is in the trailer" family movie. All of the bats to the crotch and pee jokes only reinforce how lowbrow and predictable the humor is and how much PARENTAL GUIDANCE squanders its leads' stellar talent.
The interactions between Crystal's grumpy grandfather, Midler's overeager grandmother, and their three wacky grandkids are alternately coy and annoying. Even the one song-and-dance number Crystal and Midler break into ("The Book of Love") is too forced and unnecessary to be entertaining. There are a few Crystal-inspired laughs and gags -- one at the expense of skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, who cameos -- but there aren't enough to make you forget how disappointing it is to see such iconic actors in such a blah film.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about how the movie portrays different parenting styles. Is it funny to see how the two generations differ? Is it just a generational "thing"? If not, what accounts for the differences? Is one style "right" and the other "wrong"?
Can you think of other movies that feature comical relationships between grandparents, adult children, and kids? How does this one compare to those?
Who do you think the movie is intended to appeal to most? Why? Does it succeed?