BootLeg Betty

Parental Guidance: “Midler Seems To Be Having Fun…”

The New York Daily News
Movie Review: ‘Parental Guidance’
Billy Crystal and Bette Midler do what they can to help comedy about grandparents pressed into service
Dec 25, 2012

How is it possible that no one thought to pair Bette Midler and Billy Crystal before now?

It’s a shame they didn’t choose a stronger project than Andy Fickman’s family comedy, but you could certainly ask for worse babysitters.

“Parental Guidance” is the sort of movie that can be pressed into service when school’s out, cabin fever hits, and everyone needs something to do. In that regard, Midler and Crystal are happy to entertain, cheerfully playing to adult audiences while taking hits (sometimes literally) for the kids.

Their characters are not quite so comfortable around ankle-biters. Diane (Midler) is thrilled when their daughter Alice (Marisa Tomei) asks them to watch their three grandchildren for a week. Artie (Crystal) is less enthusiastic. He’s old-school, the kind of grandpa who tells it like it is and isn’t above the threat of a spanking when things get out of hand.

Alice and her husband, Phil (Tom Everett Scott), are gentler, more liberal parents: they shun sugar and believe in nurturing and “using your words.”

When Alice and Phil go on vacation, Artie and Diane take over. Diane puts makeup on preteen Harper (Bailee Madison); Artie stuffs Turner (Joshua Rush) and Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf) with ice cream. She bawls out Harper’s demanding teacher; he bails on a playdate to go to a sportscasting audition.

That Artie’s audition is for the X Games, and he dresses like Vanilla Ice, and Barker urinates on the half-pipe and causes Tony Hawk to slip and nearly break his neck, tells you pretty much everything you need to know about this movie, and whether your own family will appreciate it.

Crystal and Midler are such confident pros that their crack timing elevates even substandard material. Midler seems to be having fun as the outrageous grandma, while Crystal carries the heavier load with utter ease.

Unfortunately, writers Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse aren’t up to the level of the stars. Do we really need hits to the groin and projectile vomiting? And why does Fickman direct with such broad, sitcom pacing?

These filmmakers are lucky enough to have two of the best in the business at their disposal. Perhaps they should have asked their leads for a little extra guidance.

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