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It shouldn't surprise anyone that this new Billy Crystal comedy isn't great, but just exactly how bad is it....?
Fox / 104 Minutes / 2012 / Rated PG / Street Date: March 26, 2013
Parental Guidance delivers exactly what you’d guess it would. This paper-thin family comedy that found a surprisingly large audience upon its Christmas 2012 release doesn’t aim to offer any kind of cinematic subtlety or overwriting theme: it’s just a comedy about parents and kids and grandkids. Its poster even copies Steve Martin’s Parenthood with a father figure (this time Billy Crystal) holding kids by their arms and legs with benign family members looking on – this is familiar territory, to be sure.
Our adventure begins when Artie (Crystal) and his wife Diane (Bette Midler) head to Atlanta to visit their family there. They only get a few minutes with their son (Tom Everett Scott) and his wife (Marisa Tomei) before they have to embark on business trips, so Parental Guidance quickly kicks into idiosyncratic grandparent mode. Artie and Diane don’t have much familiarity with smart phones and an internet world, so the middle section of the film gives them ample room to make a bunch of gags about how much things have changed since they first had kids.
Aiming low isn’t necessarily the nail in the coffin for family comedies like Parental Guidance – sometimes viewers search out films like this one to simply turn off their brains and enjoy some well-oiled (and nicely-dressed) Hollywood favorites embarking on some zany adventures. This comedy, though, just dissolves into dust before its first reel comes to a close. Paint-by-number filmmaking has its time and place, but no matter how you slice it, in Parental Guidance you can’t get past the cliché to the good stuff.
It’s a shame, too, because the teaming of Crystal and Midler is an inspired casting coup. I can just imagine studio execs sneering with glee thinking that a movie like this might catapult these two stars into the same orbit as Steve Martin and Diane Keaton in Father of the Bride, a movie that Parental Guidance certainly riffs on. But a threadbare script torpedoes the whole affair: despite its marquee-caliber pedigree, Parental Guidance is just another yuk-yuk carbon-copy comedy that will inspire you to giggle lightly once or twice and then completely dispose of it once end credits start to roll.