Billy Crystal and Bette Midler Form an All-Star Comedy Duo in "Parental Guidance"

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Billy Crystal & Bette Midler star in this 2012 comedy film directed by Andy Fickman. Playing the lead role of Artie Decker, Crystal's character is a grandfather who finds himself caring for his three grandchildren after his daughter (played by Marisa Tomei) disappears on a week-long work function. As he attempts to use the modern methods of parenting which she has laid down, Artie is confronted with what seems like an absurd world of negotiating with kids, Little League games where everyone gets a hit, tailored meals and 'feelings.' Ultimately, he reverts to an old-school-justice style of discipline.
Photo Credit: Photo by Phil Caruso – © 2011 - Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Walden Media, LLC
December 6th, 2012

Throughout history, the generation gap has provided comedy writers a limitless well from which to cull. As times change, so do the rules of parenting, a subject which is a huge part of that generation gap. Each generation vows not to parent the way their mom and dad did, obtaining various results. In the upcoming film "Parental Guidance," Marisa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott play parents who handle child rearing very differently from their parents, only to get sidetracked by those same parents they vowed not to be like.

Alice (Tomei) and Phil (Scott) are living an idyllic life in a suburb with their three children. Phil is a career man who enjoys his job, along with the occasional travel that it presents. When he is called away at the last minute for a business trip, he and Alice convince her parents Diane (Bette Midler) and Artie (Billy Crystal) to come to town to babysit their three kids so they can both go on the trip together. The grandparents haven't seen their grandkids in over a year, so an ecstatic Diane agrees, while Artie balks at the idea. He senses that the kids don't like him, and he doesn't want to be around them day and night, but with no hope of escape. Diane wins the argument, and they set off on an airplane to go see their grandkids Harper (Bailee Madison), Ashley (Madison Lintz), and Turner (Joshua Rush).

Alice is aware that her father thinks that her kids don't like him and tries to do something about it. She gathers the children together and gives them pointers on how to act around him. She tells them that they won't get his old man jokes, but they should laugh anyways to be polite. This results in more than one moment where the three kids pause before realizing that grandpa was trying to be funny, culminating in very delayed awkward laughs.

Before they leave, Alice and Phil sit Diane and Artie down to explain the rules of the home. They are very permissive parents who try not to say "no" to their kids. Instead, they like to provide alternatives for them, which is completely foreign to Diane and Artie. When the two take the kids to a little league game, they are shocked to find out that nobody is ever called out and the game always ends in a tie, no matter which team is better. Artie is furious at this attempt to spare the kids' feelings and decides it's the final straw. Between the feelings and the permissiveness, he feels the kids are being raised wrong and takes it upon himself to fix things. Diane reluctantly gets on board and begins to enjoy breaking her daughter's strict rules.

The first thing they do is begin to say "no," much to the children's surprise. Next, the rule about not feeding the kids anything with sugar is broken, which leads to all three kids having a sugar rush to end all sugar rushes. They cause chaos and mayhem in the house, which allows director Andy Fickman to mine their frenzied state for more laughs.

Diane and Artie try and reign in the chaos that results from breaking the rules, but the trouble is thwarted when Alice and Phil return early from the trip. Alice is shocked to see Harper eating a sheet cake with her hands, lamenting that ice cream is not like yogurt, a lie she told Harper to get her to eat healthier. After all the madness winds down and the sugar rush turns into a sugar crash, the two sets of parents must sit down and duke it out over parenting styles. The generation gap never seems bigger, but both sides must come to a compromise if they are to save their relationship.

Crystal has stayed active in the public eye by hosting the Oscars but has only done two feature films in the last six years, including "Parental Guidance." Midler has likewise only done a handful of films in recent years, mixing high drama in "Then She Found Me" with comedy, as in "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore." She has been busy headlining her own show in Vegas. The two are both comedy legends who surprisingly have never worked together before, so fans of both will be delighted to see them team up, especially since they haven't been making many movies as of late. Together, their pinpoint comedy timing and experience help make "Parental Guidance" one of the funniest multigenerational comedies in recent memory.