Director Andy Fickman isnâ€™t known for his deft skills at directing comedy, as the Amanda Bynes vehicle â€œSheâ€™s the Manâ€ and last yearâ€™s already forgotten â€œYou Againâ€ bear out, but his next film â€œUs & Themâ€ (which, we suppose completes an unofficial trilogy of films with bland, pronoun-heavy titles) canâ€™t be knocked for lacking talent. It already boasts Billy Crystal returning from the wilderness after â€œAnalyze That,â€ and now, Variety reports that Bette Midlerâ€”absent from our screens since the nonsensical remake of George Cukorâ€™s â€œThe Womenâ€ committed gynocide at the box-office in 2008 worse than Charlotte Gainsbourg in â€œAntichristâ€â€”and precocious â€œJust Go with Itâ€ and â€œDonâ€™t Be Afraid of the Darkâ€ star Bailee Madison have also joined the cast.
Thereâ€™s not a heap of detail on the plot thus far, though it appears to involve the â€œgeneration gapâ€ between grandparents and their three adorable grandchildren. Crystal plays a Fresno AAA baseball announcer forced to move in with the three tots and the storyâ€™s conflict will allegedly hang on the difference between 21st century child-rearing skills and â€œthe old school of upbringingâ€ (maybe he beats them while reading a book). Midler will put in a turn as Crystalâ€™s partner/wind-beneath-his wings (pray God sheâ€™s not a Norma Desmond-style entertainer), and Madison will play one of the mucky pups who may or may not make the pairâ€™s life a living hell.
Yeah, this terrain would seem to be out of Crystalâ€™s comfort zone, unless Nora Ephron has done an uncredited pass at the material or Fickmanâ€™s cracking out a hitherto unrevealed Lubitsch touch. But it is penned by one-time prolific Crystal collaborators Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (responsible for two â€œCity Slickersâ€ films, â€œMr Saturday Nightâ€ and â€œForget Parisâ€ between them) who also presumably coaxed him out of semi-retirement for that less-than dignified cameo in â€œThe Tooth Fairyâ€ last year.
Clearly mining the â€œwacky familyâ€ shtick that worked so brilliantly for Rene Russo and Dennis Quaid in â€œYours, Mine and Ours,â€ and not forgetting Steve Martin in two â€œCheaper By the Dozenâ€ movies, heart-warming/â€œDonâ€™t kids say the darndest things?â€ guff like this can sell. At the very least there may be a modicum of fun seeing The Divine Miss M and Crystal duking it out, even if the guy who starred in â€œVampire in Brooklynâ€ and â€œMeet Daveâ€ is hosting the Oscars these days. And, if not, Crystal already has a cameo in â€œThe Muppetsâ€ to balance things out or has the option to expand that â€œWhen Harry Met Sally 2â€ trailer to feature-length. Maybe Midler could do a similarly redemptive turn in a big-screen version of â€œRochelle Rochelle.â€