Review No. 471
“Parental Guidance” not suggested.
DIRECTED BY ANDY FICKMAN. WRITTEN BY LISA ADDARIO AND JOE SYRACUSE. STARRING BILLY CRYSTAL (ARTIE DECKER), BETTE MIDLER (DIANE DECKER), MARISA TOMEI (ALICE SIMMONS), TOM EVERETT SCOTT (PHIL SIMMONS), BAILEE MADISON (HARPER SIMMONS), KYLE HARRISON BREITKOPF (BARKER SIMMONS), AND JOSHUA RUSH (TURNER SIMMONS). ALSO STARRING GEDDE WATANABE, CADE JONES, MAVRICK MORENO, MADISON LINTZ, AND KARAN KENDRICK. FEATURING CAMEOS FROM TONY HAWK AND STEVE LEVY. DISTRIBUTED BY 20TH CENTURY FOX ON DECEMBER 25, 2012. PRODUCED IN ENGLISH BY THE UNITED STATES. RUNS 1 HOUR, 45 MINUTES. RATED PG BY THE MPAA, FOR SOME RUDE HUMOR.
PARENTAL GUIDANCE WAS WATCHED ON MAY 3, 2013.
“My granddaughter’s birth has made me want to create things she will love.” –Billy Crystal
It’s amazing that I could predict how Parental Guidance would end as soon as it had begun. Actually, scratch that. If this were a movie that showed a modicum of decency toward a genuine movie lover, then to predict the ending would be impressive. But it’s just common knowledge here. Parental Guidance isn’t as far as you can get from original, but aside from a few minor touches, it recycles gags that seem to have gotten old fast. The film is only as unpredictable as the sight of birds in the early morning.
I’ve been accused of being too generous to movies, but perhaps to Parental Guidance, I just need to be a bit more generous. Movies like this don’t care about plot or pacing. They don’t care how suddenly their characters change, because we won’t notice. Maybe we will, but we won’t care. Movies like this are the PG equivalent of a standup routine. You try and “make ‘em laugh.” Nothing else. Just a joke. Another joke. And another joke. Maybe a quick gross-out scene right when the under-eight audience is about to fall asleep. Don’t want the comedy to be too boring.
And that’s exactly the problem with Parental Guidance. It can’t make us laugh very easily. You can see where it’s going, for sure. You know what jokes it’s trying to tell; they just don’t come out right in delivery. Sure, kids will laugh at this, but there’s several other movies that would treat them to much harder laughs. The juvenile humor is evened out rather noticeably with Billy Crystal’s “adult humor.” Fortunately, he steals the better half of his scenes (mind you, he features in a main role). As for the other half, unfortunately, the writing of Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse (no, I hadn’t heard of them either) manages to fail even an old-school genius like Crystal. And unfortunately, there’s no kid who will get his jokes.
Parental Guidance is a substandard family comedy. You take two parents that don’t look to us like they’d be strict, and apparently they’re Household Hitlers. They don’t let their kids do anything but what is (hypothetically) good for them. That includes not meeting their grandparents. And it’s not until they do meet their grandparents that they realize that they’ve been brainwashed into the rule of their parents, and that their parents realize how totalitarian their rule is. Seeing from how the movie plays out, you can stop questioning my level of exaggeration. The movie adopts a great deal of caricature into its namesake. As you would expect, results are both to success and failure. But this story is so common. You could do a two-minute Google search for something that takes the caricature to hilarious extremes. And I guarantee, you’d find not one, but at least ten to your satisfaction.