Parental Guidance (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Parental Guidance (2012)

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About as good as it getsAndrew DISLIKE BannerIt's difficult for me to understand the appeal of films like Parental Guidance.  Getting an afternoon or evening away from your normal routine and getting the opportunity to watch a film is something that I loved doing with my family when I was younger.  We mostly watched fantasies and cartoons.  I enjoyed it.

But the world inhabited by the people in Parental Guidance is like some kind of hyper reality.  I get that some people like watching a comedy that seems to speak to their day to day routine.  It's nice to go to a film that understands that.  It's wish fulfillment to watch a film that says "I get it" and entertains for a while.

What I don't understand is the kind of wish fulfillment on display here.  Grandma takes a pole dancing class to stay in shape.  Grandpa gets hit in the testicles and then proceeds to vomit onto a child.  At another point grandpa gets a standing ovation by threatening to spank his grandson in front of a packed auditorium audience trying to listen to some Tchaikovsky.

The screen explodes with tension.

The screen explodes with tension.

These are some disturbing wishes to fulfill and asks the question of what kind of audience wants to see a kid get puked on?  That's terrain for something a lot darker, not something with characters played by Bette Midler (grandma Diane) and Billy Crystal (grandpa Artie).  They're about as capable of grandparents as you can get for a film like this and are a mostly nice pair of guides throughout the film.

After trying to engender some unnecessary sympathy by firing Artie from his baseball announcer job they get an opportunity to watch the kids of Diane's daughter.  Alice (Marisa Tomei, apparently fresh from the Tea Leoni school of histrionics) and her husband Phil (Tom Everett Scott) live in one of those hyper modern clockwork homes and still have moments to fit in dialogue about how little time they have.  Yes, it's one of those movies where the generation that came before clearly knows best.

Best in this case being spanking a kid in front of 300+ people.

That kid (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf) is a nightmare, both as a character in the film and viewing his performance as an audience member.  He's never given anything funny and was apparently instructed by director Andy Fickman to scream almost all of his lines through puffed up cheeks.  Combine this with a distressing tendency to put the kid in physically threatening situations and it's clear something horrible went wrong in his creation.  He even pees on Tony Hawk.  Yes, the skater.

Bette Midler is such a good sport throughout all this.

Bette Midler is an awfully good sport about all this.

The Tony Hawk incident, scatological problems aside, point to another weird problem.  The film insists, several times, to show just how great it would be if they just ditched the technology and got a little more hands-on.  They do this in ways I do respect, like with the oldest grandchild (Joshua Rash) learning how to be a baseball announcer.  Then there are just odd ways, like when grandpa and grandma get out a can to literally play Kick the Can after trying to bond at the X-Games.

This might have been cute in another film, but after other scenes of "old fashioned" behavior and more scenes of wacky grandparents who just don't get technology watching everyone kick an actul can was too much.  The rest of the film offers dubious advice to the granddaughter (Bailee Madison) that would fit right in on the Simpsons (basically: if something is hard just give up).  The rest is on predictably happy rails with everyone getting along famously by the end and no less than three different slow clap moments.

Even for the threat of a public spanking.  I'm glad my family stayed home when movies like this were out.

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Parental Guidance - TailParental Guidance (2012)

Directed by Andy Fickman.
Screenplay written by Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse.
Starring Bette Midler and Billy Crystal.

Posted by Andrew

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