Parental Guidance isn’t a particularly good movie but it is nowhere near as atrocious as it should have been. Bette Middler and Billy Crystal team up as out-of-their-depth grandparents who want to get back into the lives of their children and grandchildren. Loaded with bad jokes and forced situational comedy the movie comes together in the end with a surprising amount of heart without seeming overly schmaltzy.
Billy Crystal takes the lead as Artie Decker, a small-market baseball announcer who had great ambition but never made it to the bigs. His wife Diane (Middler) is the ever-present, ever-supportive housewife. And that, for all intents and purposes, is it. The movie doesn’t provide much depth to the characters; rather they are merely present for plot advancement and jokes. When Artie is unceremoniously fired after 20 years with the club, he finds himself at a crossroads: Retire or try to find a new gig. The decision is put on hold when his estranged daughter (Marisa Tomei) needs a last-minute babysitter when her husband wins a major award. And that’s where the pratfalls begin.
The story is there to serve the jokes and that it does. A fully-automated house provides a good deal of the family-friendly humor, but the breakout stars of this picture are the three rambunctious children played ably by Bailee Madison, Joshua Rush, and Kyle Harrison Breitkopf. The trio combine to torture their grandfather in a variety of ways the keep the movie, on the rails toward a predictable conclusion, moderately interesting.
There’s plenty of Billy Crystal’s trademark over-your-head jokes and mugging for the camera until you laugh, but on the whole Parental Guidance is little more than a big screen sitcom pilot. Fortunately the movie provides enough entertainment to justify your holiday entertainment dollar.
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