×

Parental Guidance

Pic could yield reasonable returns as an inoffensive alternative to Oscar bait and epics, but even on those terms, "Parental Guidance" is not suggested.

With:
Artie Decker - Billy Crystal
Diane Decker - Bette Midler
Alice Simmons - Marisa Tomei
Phil Simmons - Tom Everett Scott
Harper Simmons - Bailee Madison
Turner Simmons - Joshua Rush
Barker Simmons - Kyle Harrison Breitkopf
Cassandra - Jennifer Crystal Foley
Dr. Schveer - Rhoda Griffis
Mr. Cheng - Gedde Watanabe

From a distance, strictly as a demographic/marketing proposition, “Parental Guidance” appears pretty shrewdly constructed: a light-hearted movie about grandparents and kids, designed to softly appeal to the holiday audience at both extremes, as well as those parents sandwiched between them. The execution, alas, prevents this from being a genuine crowdpleaser, with the better moments (mostly of the schmaltzy variety) more than offset by the irritating and tedious ones. Pic could still yield reasonable returns as an inoffensive alternative to Oscar bait and epics, but even on those terms, “Parental Guidance” is not suggested.

Functioning as producer and star, Billy Crystal manages to work in some mildly amusing shtick along the way in his capacity as a minor-league baseball announcer, albeit one who loses his longtime gig in the early going. Yet Crystal’s Artie and his wife, Diane (Bette Midler), have grown distant from their sole child, Alice (Marisa Tomei), so they’re as surprised as anybody when their daughter and her hubby (Tom Everett Scott) — in a sure sign that there’s no other option — enlist these less favored grandparents to watch the kids while they escape on a work-related trip.

It’s the kids, frankly, where “Parental Guidance” mostly breaks down, not because the three young actors (Bailee Madison, Joshua Rush and Kyle Harrison Breitkopf) are bad, but because their quirks and means of acting out are so unrelatable, petulant or simply annoying.

In addition, director Andy Fickman and writers Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse can’t really settle on go-to gags or a consistent tone. So while the movie threatens to get mileage out of the “prototype smart house” in which the family lives, which flummoxes Artie, the bit mostly founders. The same goes for the notion of Artie’s old-fashioned ideas butting up against (and triumphing over) New Age, self-esteem-building, “We don’t keep score when our kids play baseball” parenting.

The movie also drops the ball on what could actually have provided greater depth — namely, how someone like Artie, whose identity is so wrapped up in his job, deals with being separated from it. Even a sequence involving his audition to broadcast the X Games feels less like a case of an older guy grasping for a lifeline than a mere pander to kids and teens, down to the cameo by skateboarding legend Tony Hawk.

Dim the star wattage, and there’s precious little to distinguish this from the average Hallmark Channel movie (including Marc Shaiman’s score). True, Crystal, Midler and Tomei conjure a few heartwarming exchanges — with the first two even teaming on a semi-gratuitous song — but instead of hewing toward “Parenthood,” the film keeps lurching toward farcical sequences that fall flat. Small wonder “Parental Guidance” winds up resorting to pee, poop and vomit in what begins to look like comedic desperation. (On the plus side, that “rude humor” is responsible for the “PG” rating, so at least there’s a bingo on that front.)

Frankly, the movie’s best idea waits until the closing credits, which feature pictures of key cast and crew members with their families, adding a closing dollop of sweetness — and making it more difficult, to borrow one of Crystal’s baseball metaphors, to tee off on them.

Still, there’s a telling line toward the end when — amid a particularly chaotic family encounter — the young daughter groans, “We are so past weird.” By then, she’s right. But unfortunately, just not close enough to good.

Parental Guidance

Production: A 20th Century Fox release presented with Walden Media of a Chernin Entertainment/Face Prods. production. Produced by Billy Crystal, Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark. Executive producer, Kevin Halloran. Co-producer, Josh McLaughlin. Directed by Andy Fickman. Screenplay, Lisa Addario, Joe Syracuse.

Crew: Camera (color), Dean Semler; editor, Kent Beyda; music, Marc Shaiman; music supervisor, Julia Michels; production designer, David J. Bomba; art director, John R. Jensen; set decorator, Patrick Cassidy; costume designer, Genevieve Tyrrell; sound (Dolby/SDDS/Datasat), Jeff Wexler; supervising sound editor, Robert L. Sephton; assistant director, Donald L. Sparks; casting, Marcia Ross. Reviewed at Fox Studios, Century City, Calif., Dec. 20, 2012. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 104 MIN.

With: Artie Decker - Billy Crystal
Diane Decker - Bette Midler
Alice Simmons - Marisa Tomei
Phil Simmons - Tom Everett Scott
Harper Simmons - Bailee Madison
Turner Simmons - Joshua Rush
Barker Simmons - Kyle Harrison Breitkopf
Cassandra - Jennifer Crystal Foley
Dr. Schveer - Rhoda Griffis
Mr. Cheng - Gedde Watanabe

More Film

  • it chapter two, comic con

    Comic-Con: 4500 Gallons of Fake Blood and Everything Else to Know About 'It Chapter Two''

    Comic-Con 2019 kicked off with a stacked presentation from the director and cast of “It Chapter Two” on Wednesday, inspiring a curious amount of joy at San Diego’s Spreckles Theater in spite of the abject terror offered up by the film. The closing chapter to 2017’s record-obliterating “It,” the highest grossing R-rated horror film of [...]

  • 'Between Me and My Mind' Review:

    Film Review: Trey Anastasio in 'Between Me and My Mind'

    Trey Anastasio doesn’t look like a rock star. With his thick rimless glasses and flop of sandy red hair, you might say he resembles John Sebastian, but really, he looks like a mashup of Mike White and Jon Cryer and the filmmaker Chris Smith. He’s an appealingly ordinary shaggy-geek dude, like some guy you might [...]

  • Photo taken July 18, 2019, from

    More Than 20 Feared Dead in Arson Attack on Japan's Kyoto Animation

    UPDATED: More than 20 people are feared to have died Thursday morning in an arson attack on the Kyoto Animation company in Japan, shocking a nation in which extreme violence is very rare. Emergency services in Kyoto City received a call about 10:35 a.m. local time reporting an explosion on the first floor of the [...]

  • sith trooper

    Sith Trooper Revealed From 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'

    “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” revealed a new storm trooper uniform Wednesday at San Diego Comic Con as part of a special exhibit celebrating the evolution of the storm trooper design. Dubbed the Sith trooper, the new uniform sports all-red armor plates with a matching red and black blaster. Also decorating the armor is [...]

  • Dunkirk

    Harry Styles Is the Perfect Prince Eric; Why He'd Rock 'Little Mermaid' Role

    Could Harry Styles be the perfect Prince Eric? One day after the announcement that the One Direction star is “in early negotiations to play the iconic ‘Little Mermaid’ role,” the internet exploded with speculation as to how he would portray the object of Ariel’s affections. “I can see lots of reasons why Harry is perfect,” [...]

  • The Lion King

    Film News Roundup: PETA Sponsors Rescued Lion in Jon Favreau's Name

    In today’s film news roundup, PETA honors Jon Favreau for “The Lion King,” “Tigers Are Not Afraid” gets a theatrical release, a Kirk Franklin biopic is in development and “The Sixth Sense” gets an anniversary showing in Philadelphia. HONOR The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is sponsoring a rescued lion to honor director [...]

  • Tokyo Director-in-Focus-at-Japan-Now

    Nobuhiko Obayashi set as Japanese Director in Focus at Tokyo Film Festival

    Indie director, Nobuhiko Obayashi will be feted as the director in focus at the Japan Now section of this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival. The festival will give a world premiere to his “Labyrinth of Cinema.” Supporting his art by shooting commercials, Obayashi is an indie whose dreamy works have influenced numerous other directors in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content