Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Parental Guidance

Directed by Andy Fickman.
2012. Rated PG, 105 minutes.
Tom Everett Scott
Joshua Rush
Kyle Harrison Breitkopf
Jennifer Crystal Foley
Rhoda Griffis
Gedde Watanabe
Tony Hawk

Alice (Tomei) and hubby Phil (Scott) haven’t had a vacation in years. Phil has a business trip coming up that he wants her to accompany him for that very reason since his work responsibilities will be minimal. With no other choice, the pair reluctantly decide to ask her parents to watch their three kids while they’re on this little rendezvous. Having been shut out of their grand-kids’ lives, Artie (Crystal) and Diane (Midler) agree. The big deal is that Alice and Phil subscribe to a lot of new school parenting techniques while Artie and Diane are definitely old fashioned. Hijinks and shenanigans ensue.

Most of the humor revolves around the differing philosophies between the parents and grandparents as a paranoid Alice keeps hanging around out of fear that her dad will break her kids. The rest of the jokes are about the youngest child, Turner (Rush) and his imaginary kangaroo friend Carl. All of it is rather hit and miss with more misses. It’s kind of hard to hit when both the story and most of the gags are easily predictable.

What keeps Parental Guidance from being totally unwatchable is the level of cuteness it maintains throughout its run time. Sure, it can veer into just being cheesy, but there is a charm to the performances of Billy Crystal and Bette Midler. This is particularly evident whenever the movie turns to Crystal’s real life love: baseball. The twinkle in his eye is genuine and never wanes. For her part, Bette Midler is still a force of nature, still playful and infectious. Together, the two of them have a fun little song and dance number and some nice scenes with the kids.

Alas, our two stars can only do so much with the trite material. Cute is nice, but the movie seems to have no other ambitions. The big debate at its core, old school vs. new school, is waged as innocuously as possible with points made that we've all heard before. Marisa Tomei is sufficiently frantic, Tom Everett Scott blends into the scenery and the children are a collective “meh.” So while not a total waste, it never really grabs us and winds up being totally forgettable.

MY SCORE: 5/10

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