Remember landlines? Remember how people used to call home and Mom and Dad would pick up on different extensions, then crack each other up and finish each otherâ€™s sentences during the call?
Thatâ€™s sort of what it was like talking to Billy Crystal and Bette Midler by phone at the same time.
â€œWeâ€™re like a pair of old shoes,â€ Crystal said during the interview in advance of â€œParental Guidance,â€ which was filmed in metro Atlanta and hits theaters on Christmas Day. â€œWe fell into each other. We loved the director. We loved the material. We loved the characters.â€
â€œIt was great fun,â€ Midler said.
The two play a loving but technologically unsavvy couple who come to stay with their super-wired grandchildren when their adult daughter, played by Marisa Tomei, and son-in-law, played by Tom Everett Scott, take a trip. Itâ€™s about as family-friendly a film as you can imagine, perhaps aimed at real families who need to get out of the house after a time of holiday togetherness.
The movie was inspired by a trip Crystal and his wife took to care for their grandkids for a few days.
â€œItâ€™s all kind of real and natural,â€ Crystal said. â€œThe best kind of comedy is real.â€
The movie is set in Atlanta, and youâ€™ll recognize landmarks such as the Varsity, the Georgia World Congress Center (used for an interior airport scene), the Atlanta International School and Piedmont Park. Thereâ€™s a fun shopping scene at Perimeter Mall and a big laugh moment at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. (Amusingly, the on-screen family gets to the Cobb Energy Centre from the Alpharetta area by taking MARTA. It is a movie, after all.)
â€œAtlanta was always very dear to me,â€ said Crystal, who has family here. â€œIt was like a second home for a while. We werenâ€™t hiding Atlanta.â€
Indeed not. Early in the movie, when Crystalâ€™s and Midlerâ€™s characters land at the airport, the camera pauses on the welcome sign that says â€œWeâ€™re glad Georgiaâ€™s on your mind,â€ with Gov. Nathan Dealâ€™s name underneath. We asked Brian Robinson, Dealâ€™s deputy chief of staff for communications, if this might be the governorâ€™s big-screen debut.
â€œGov. Deal hasnâ€™t made too many movie appearances, so this is probably a first,â€ Robinson replied. â€œThe governor is glad, in fact, that Georgia is on the mind of the film industry. Because of our pro-business policies, Georgians are getting accustomed to seeing their state on the big and small screens. That attracts more attention, raises our profile and creates jobs for Georgians.â€
Midler hadnâ€™t spent much time here but quickly caught on to the townâ€™s favorite road.
â€œAtlanta has 26 streets called Peachtree,â€ she said in a Twitter post during production. â€œBut get this, no peach trees!â€
Although she and Crystal admire each other, â€œParental Guidanceâ€ is their first movie together. We asked if they plan to pair up again and if they plan to film here again. Answer: maybe.
â€œIâ€™d never been to Atlanta for any length of time,â€ Midler said. â€œThe support from the city has been absolutely gigantic.â€