When old-school grandparents meet modern, 21st century kids, it’s a recipe for disaster — the very story line of new comedy “Parental Guidance,” directed by Andy Fickman.
Billy Crystal and Bette Midler play grandparents Artie and Diane Decker, who agree to watch over their three pre-teen grandkids (Harper, Turner and Barker), for their only daughter Alice (Marisa Tomei) while she is out of town with her husband on a business trip.
Artie, who has just been fired from his job as commentator of a minor baseball club in northern California as it makes way for fresh faces, is a sarcastic, stubborn, aging man who is used to calling the shots. He is not keen on traveling all the way to Georgia for a whole week to watch over the kids — a marked contrast to the sentiments of his somewhat loopy wife, who can’t wait for the reunion.
It seems that the script must have written itself: The clash between old and young spanning three generations obviously comes with an array of ideas for comedic scenes.
The film sees veteran actors Crystal and Midler unite professionally on the big screen after years of a behind-the-scenes friendship. Though this sounds like the perfect formula for success, “Parental Guidance” isn’t able to go beyond what is expected. Sure, there is laughter, warmth and that overall fuzzy feeling, but often the film is overbearing.
This is not so much the fault of Crystal and Midler. How could it be? They have been professional entertainers, comedians and actors throughout their whole career — they know how to do the job.
Midler obviously enjoys herself as the kooky grandmother, but it is Crystal who, despite his character’s constant bickering, is the star of the movie.
Tomei has proven to be a worthy addition to almost every movie she’s cast in, but here, she gets little chance to shine as Alice is restricted to the stereotype of a successful businesswoman trying to juggle a career and raise kids.
It is a testimony to Tomei’s acting skills that she still manages to do it well, even with an underdeveloped character like this.
Writers Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse, as well as Fickman, make no use of the great pool of talent and energy delivered by the film’s lead actors, diminishing it into a shallow and cliched flick.
The script highlights strict rules versus a liberal education, and the discussion on what diet makes for a happy and healthy child.
There is potty humor, but is there really anyone who genuinely laughs when professional skateboarder Tony Hawk slips on the half-pipe because Barker urinated on it?
However, an audience willing to overlook the flaws of “Parental Guidance” might still enjoy the on-screen chemistry of Crystal and Midler — especially obvious when they perform a little song in front of the kids. Viewers can still warm up to the charms of this odd couple and realize how big the gap has become between parents in their 60s and 70s and their children, who try to raise their own families in a completely different way.
Directed by Andy Fickman
Starring Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei
English with Indonesian subtitles