MRR Movie Review: 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.
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Movie Review: "Parental Guidance"

-- Rating: PG
Length: 104 minutes
Release Date: December 25, 2012
Directed by: Andy Fickman
Genre: Comedy

The 1980s were a golden age for family-friendly comedies, with hits such as "National Lampoon's Family Vacation." With "Parental Guidance," director Andy Fickman hopes to remind viewers of comedies from that era.

Phil (Tom Everett Scott, "That Thing You Do") is an inventor who is invited to a conference after creating a new hit product. After he talks to his wife, Alice (Marisa Tomei, "My Cousin Vinny"), the two decide to attend the trip together and enjoy some time away as husband and wife. Though they initially ask Phil's parents to watch their children, they find themselves with only one option: Alice's parents. Alice worries that her uptight and traditional parents will have problems handling modern kids. The grandparents' efforts serve as the main plot of the film.

Artie (Billy Crystal, "City Slickers") and Diane (Bette Midler, "Beaches") love their grandchildren, but they have no idea how to handle kids who need time out. Harper (Bailee Madison, "Just Go With It"), Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf, "Being Human"), and Turner (Joshua Rush, "Puss in Boots") use that to their full advantage, leading their grandparents on a hilarious adventure that may remind viewers of their own families.

Crystal is a comedic genius, and he is the highlight of "Parental Guidance." After spending years working on animated films, he finally gets back into the swing of things playing a man who has no idea what he is doing. Whether he's trying to understand the difference between a "Red" and "Blue" voice or wondering how to tell a child no, he delights onscreen.

While Crystal shines in his role as the confused grandfather, the child actors really steal the show. Breitkopf plays a child with an imaginary friend who is constantly on hand. When he explains that his friend, Carl, is actually a kangaroo, viewers can't help laughing. Rush's character is a little more relatable, especially as he deals with a bully who teases him for his stutter. Then there's Madison as Harper, a girl trying to cope with becoming a teenager while dealing with a mother who doesn't understand.

Though they only appear for a short period in "Parental Guidance," Marisa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott turn in great performances. Tomei plays a neurotic mess, a woman so convinced that her parents did a bad job raising her that she feels she must do everything differently with her own children. Scott serves as the angel on her shoulder, making her take a step back and deal with her emotions before taking any action.

While Crystal gets most of the laughs, many viewers will find themselves drawn to Midler's character. Diane thinks she did a fantastic job with her own children and cannot understand her daughter's behavior. Midler serves as a foil to Crystal's pratfalls, picking him up when he falls and trying to help him follow their daughter's rules. Fans of 1980s films will also want to keep an eye out for Gedde Watanabe ("Sixteen Candles"). Watanabe appears as the owner of a local Chinese restaurant, and although he's in the film for just a few minutes, he walks away with some of the biggest laughs.

Some of the best laughs in the film come when Artie and Diane attempt to interact with their grandchildren. The film explains that all kids have a set of grandparents whom they love and another set whom they tolerate. Alice rarely spends time with her own parents, making Phil's parents the top grandparents for her kids. Artie and Diane simply want the chance to shine and become beloved grandparents, and they are willing to do anything to make that happen.

"Parent Guidance" takes a little while to get going, but once it does, it releases some comedic gold. It doesn't take long for Artie to decide that he can't cope with Alice's rules, and as he finally starts bonding with his grandchildren, viewers are sure to smile. He isn't above paying off one child to stop certain behaviors or watching an R-rated film with another. Artie even gives his grandchildren ice cream, which his daughter doesn't allow. These scenes will remind viewers of Crystal's excellent sense of comedic timing.

"Parental Guidance" provides something for everyone. Some of the jokes will go over the heads of younger viewers while making adults laugh out loud, and all of the actors turn out strong performances. Viewers will also find the story entertaining, and it might remind many of their own families.

Rating 3 out of 5