“Parental Guidance” is a miserable, lazy, and idiotic attempt to earn the family box office dollar around the holidays. Every single plot point and character arc can be seen many many miles away. If I wanted to I’m sure I could go to great length to tear it to shreds. But, it’s the end of the year and quite frankly I don’t have the energy or motivation to do it. This film isn’t worth it.
“Parental Guidance” is in essence about two generations of parents and two different styles of child rearing. Old school vs. new school. Spanking a kid vs. not even being able to tell the kid “no” because it might harm them emotionally. The old schooler’s are played by aging celebrity wax figures Billy Crystal and Bette Midler. Crystal is his usual self, running his mouth for the whole duration of the movie, spouting corny jokes that none of the kids in the audience will get and Midler is loyally at his side. On the other end of the spectrum there’s Marisa Tomei (who plays the daughter of Crystal and Midler’s character). Calling her character a helicopter parent would be an understatement. Tomei, who’s usually an effective actress, is reduced to playing a fidgety, anal and utterly annoying character.
So Midler and Crystal are obviously here to appeal to the older members of the audience. For the kiddies, it’s the textbook PG, annoying spoiled brats. There’s the uptight oldest daughter who learns to enjoy life, the shy unconfident kid who’s suffering from some kind of social handicap (in this case he has a lisp) and the young monster always running around and causing mischief. The script by Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse contains the usual fart and poop jokes. There’s (sadly) a joke where Crystal is hit in the testicals with a baseball bat and one where the kids get major sugar high from eating cake, that ends with Tomei’s character falling face first into it. If you ask me, the children audience members get left out in cold. In fact it’s kind of astounding how ill inspired and lazy the stuff involving the children is. But whatever.
I’m sure the target audience will like it. At the screening I attended there were plenty of laughs. The only remotely positive thing I can say about the film is that it’s harmless, and makes sure to cram in positive messages about family and parenting. Even so, there are much better ways to spend your time, plenty of other movies to see, especially during the holidays.