The Hollywood Reporter
Parental Guidance: Film Review
6:12 PM PST 12/21/2012 by Michael Rechtshaffen
The Bottom Line
Itâ€™s Grandparenthood, as Billy Crystal and Bette Midler do their best to keep this generic family comedy aloft.
Tuesday, December 25 (20th Century Fox)
Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei, Tom Everett Scott, Bailee Madison
Billy Crystal and Bette Midler hustle to peddle the threadbare material that makes Andy Fickman‘s comedy a perfectly tolerable, if uninspired, moviegoing experience.
The schmaltz is piled on thick, and if the comedy were any broader it would require an IMAX screen, but still thereâ€™s something touching about how hardÂ Billy CrystalÂ andÂ Bette MidlerÂ hustle to peddle the threadbare material that makesÂ Parental GuidanceÂ a perfectly tolerable, if uninspired, moviegoing experience.
As â€œthe other grandparentsâ€ who are given a golden opportunity to bond with their seldom-seen grandchildren, Billy and Bette work doubletime, well aware that itâ€™s not just the juvenile characters they have to entertain, but also the paying audiences who could count on both of them for a good laugh back in the day.
That they manage to pull their weight even when the achingly formulaic plotting threatens to drag them under is a testament to their â€œletâ€™s-put-on-a-showâ€ spirit. The end result should appeal to audiences, including bonding grandparents and grandkids, looking for a little undemanding holiday cheer.
Crystal is Artie Decker, who has just lost his longtime gig as â€œDe Voice of the Fresno Grizzliesâ€ when the minor league baseball teamâ€™s manager decided to upgrade the outfit with the sort of talent that knows its way around a Facebook page or a Twitter account.
Already despondent, heâ€™s not exactly jumping up and down over the news that he and his wife Diane (Midler) have been recruited to babysit their daughter Aliceâ€™s (Marisa Tomei) three kids when she and her tech-geek husband Phil (Tom Everett Scott) get a last-minute opportunity to have some out-of-town alone time.
As expected, uptight Aliceâ€™s no-sugar-allowed helicopter parenting clashes mightily with Artie and Dianeâ€™s old-school approach to childrearing, not to mention the fact that Phil has programmed his smart home to be intuitive within an inch of its inhabitantsâ€™ lives.
Also as expected are the resulting gags built around technologically-challenged Artie. Fortunately, old pro Crystal comes armed with an arsenal of rim-shot-ready rejoinders that hit the mark more than they miss.
While his character has been given more of an emotional arc than Midlerâ€™s (unsurprising, since the genesis ofÂ Parental GuidanceÂ came from a newly-minted grandparenting experience in producer Crystalâ€™s life), itâ€™s still nice to see Midler strutting her stuff in her first onscreen comedy role in years.
And Tomei is always a welcome presence, even when sheâ€™s saddled with whatâ€™s essentially a one-note character for most of the film.
It would have been nice if directorÂ Andy FickmanÂ (Race to Witch Mountain) and husband-and-wife screenwritersÂ Lisa AddarioÂ andÂ Joe SyracuseÂ (Surfâ€™s Up) could have mined some fresher stuff from this frequently played ballgame, but at least when youâ€™ve got Crystal calling the shots, you can still count on the occasional change-up.