Parental Guidance

Directed By: Andy Fickman

Starring: Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei, and Tom Everett Scott

It's the end of the holiday movie season, and I definitely have to say that we've been on a wild ride.  We've seen manly hobbits, a mutilated bisexual Bond villain, balladeer Russell Crowe, and much more.  This winter has certainly had its ups and downs, but it has been a good one overall.  While I would like to close the holiday season on a high note, my hands are tied.  I have to tackle Billy Crystal's stale family comedy Parental Guidance.

Artie Decker (Crystal) is a baseball announcer for the Grizzlies.  While he's definitely an enjoyable commentator, his methods are a little outdated.  He's a man out of touch with the present.  He has no idea what Facebook is and thinks a tweet is just a sound made by a bird.  With this in mind, the Grizzlies think he’s not connecting with his younger audience and let him go.  His wife Diane (Bette Midler) sees this as an opportunity for him to retire and spend more time with her.

Meanwhile, Phil and Alice Simmons (Tom Everett Scott and Marisa Tomei) are raising their kids Harper, Turner, and Barker (Bailee Madison, Joshua Rush, and Kyle Harrison Breitkopf) in a very loving home in Atlanta.  At work, Phil has invented an automated home system and is being lauded for it by his peers.  He's been invited to a convention at which he has been nominated for an award for this invention.  Because of this, Phil and Alice need babysitters for next week.  The only available sitters are Alice's parents Artie and Diane.  When they gladly accept the invitation to come to Atlanta and take care of their grandchildren, a clash of generations ensues.

While Parental Guidance is conceptually a great idea for the holiday season, it's terrible in its execution.  This Billy Crystal vehicle is a mix of a bad 90’s comedy and some television movie you'd find playing on ABC Family in the wee hours of the night.  This film just doesn't work at all.  The laughs aren't there, and any moments where director Andy Fickman tries to tug at our heart strings are completely fabricated.  Parental Guidance is one bad way to close your holiday season.

The movie is all about setting up a clash between the old folks and the kids.  The comedy in this film depends on this major arc of throwing Billy Crystal and Bette Midler into this uncomfortable, unfamiliar environment.  The problem is that Crystal's brand of humor is completely outdated.  It's just gone bad and doesn't work anymore.  He's a comedic relic of the past.  For her part, Bette Midler can't find her comedic groove either.  She's trying too hard to bring this fun, silly persona to the movie, and it just doesn't work.  Together, these two deliver mild chuckles at best, hardly the mark of a decent comedy.

Because it is a family comedy, Parental Guidance is supposed to tug at our heart strings.  It's by design.  Instead of genuinely touching scenes though, we get scenes lacking any emotion whatsoever.  Andy Fickman tries to pull the wool over our eyes with America's favorite pastime and some cheesy music.  Well, baseball and some slow music aren't getting the job done.  Fickman needs to step up his game and put some real emotion in the film.

Parental Guidance closes out the holiday season on a low note.  This family comedy just doesn't get the job done.  I can't say that I had high expectations for the film, so I'm not really disappointed.  Parental Guidance gets a 0.09% rating.  I need a martini or two for this one.