BootLeg Betty

Parental Guidance takes a family-friendly stab at helicopter parenting

The Georgia Straight
Parental Guidance takes a family-friendly stab at helicopter parenting
Dec 25, 2012

The cult of helicopter parents bent on “teachable moments” and overscheduling begs for a good satire. Parental Guidance isn’t the ripping attack we were hoping for (leave that to Judd Apatow or Ben Stiller), but it takes an intermittently funny, albeit warm and family-friendly, stab at it.

 

The main person battling the self-esteem–obsessed generation is Billy Crystal, playing a semi-estranged grandfather, Artie. With his wife, Diane (Bette Midler), he tries to reconnect with his daughter Alice (Marisa Tomei) and her children by babysitting for a few days. Alice and her husband are desperate for a week away from the kids whom they spend all day shuttling between violin lessons and baseball when they aren’t feeding them soysages and eggless egg-salad sandwiches.

Before you can say “Use your words,” the kids are calling Artie “Fartie”, demanding to watch Saw, nailing gramps in his “special place”, and tripping out on their first taste of sugar.

Unfortunately, Parental Guidance wanders like a distracted five-year-old, especially in the subplot about Artie’s lost career as a baseball commentator. Among the unfunny tangents: a trip to the X Games (the lame punchline: Tony Hawk skateboards through a child’s pee), a requisite musical number for Midler, and almost every scene with poor Tomei.

PG gets its biggest (maybe only) laughs when it focuses on pitting Artie’s old-school parenting habits against new ones: watch a preschooler demand grandpa sing a “doody” song so he can make number 2 in what may be Atlanta’s worst public toilet.

In another scene that’s hilarious until you think about how sad it is, Artie and Diane attempt to teach the kids how to play Kick the Can. One child wonders if the can should be recycled; the other observes how “dirty” it is outdoors. It’s what you might call a teachable moment.

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