Billy Crystal, Kyle Harrison Breitkopf, Marisa Tomei, and Tom Everett Scott. Click on the 'Play' button above to watch the trailer for Parental Guidance.
December 21, 2012
(Republished April 16, 2013)
It is with deep regret that the last film I review for 2012 be Andy Fickman's Parental Guidance, wherein Billy Crystal is struck in the testicles with a baseball bat, and then proceeds to vomit on a child out of agony. For someone to fully grasp the Luis Buñuel-ian strangeness of it all, they'd need to have their full, focused mental faculties available to them. Perhaps this is why it is being released at the end of the year; not to capitalise on holiday audiences, but to bamboozle critics who have already spent all of their twenty-dollar words on thoughtful fare like Zero Dark Thirty and The Master. With the deluge of boxing day releases flooding in, I have little energy to unpack the intricate, individual oddities found within this particularly unwanted present. I'll say this: it's very bad. And now, with a heavy heart, I shall relate the plot.
Crystal plays Artie Decker, a minor league baseball announcer (Didn't 'cha know? BILLY CRYSTAL LIKES BASEBALL); unceremoniously sacked and forced into an early retirement. His wife, former weather girl Diane (Bette Midler), relishes the extra time they'll get together, and her first pet project is for them to reconnect with their grandkids. The opportunity comes along when their uptight daughter Alice (Marisa Tomei; poor, poor Marisa Tomei) and her husband Phil (Tom Everett Scott) need to travel for work (Phil's invention - a technologically advanced, near-sentient house - is in the running for the prestigious and vaguely titled 'Product of the Year' award). Artie and Diane end up on their daughter's doorstep, ready to make the littlies (Bailee Madison, Joshua Rush, Kyle Harrison Breitkopf) fall in love with them. However, if they're going to babysit for an entire week, they'll need to throw away their old school methods, and start using Alice and Phil's perfectly reasonable ploys to keep the kiddies in line. Artie, because he is terrible, sees no need for such mollycoddling.
Although Fickman's the director, Crystal is the producer, and he feels like the real driving force behind this whole endeavour. If you are enticed by the prospect of Billy repeatedly lecturing large groups of people about the correct way to raise children, and then seeing him applauded by said people, then this is the picture you've been waiting for. Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse's script panders to older moviegoers more blatantly than my proposed Best Exotic Marigold Hotel sequel starring Kate Middleton (Hollywood investors, this is a guaranteed money-spinner; contact me!). Perhaps Artie's efforts to right the wrongs of his younger generation would be more sympathetic if Tomei and Scott weren't so appealing and level-headed. Ah well. Screw them! Artie and Diane are able to cure all the kids' deep, emotional issues in just five days, and still have time to play a lively game of - and I swear this is true - kick the can. I know what you're thiking. "Come on now! Even though it stars Crystal and Midler, Parental Guidance is one hip, happening flick. Would famed skateboarder Tony Hawk agree to cameo in it otherwise?" This argument would barely hold water in 1998.
There's a lot of weird stuff going on here: the aforementioned vomit sequence, the magical capabilities of kick the can, Crystal and Midler breaking into an impromptu performance of The Book of Love, Tony Hawk injuring himself on a half-pipe by skating through one of the kids' inconveniently expelled urine (don't ask). Composer Marc Shaiman underlines every moment with exactly the kind of generic, inane production music you'd expect. And I gotta say, two of those kids are pretty tough to watch. I don't want to name names; after all, they're kids. But I will note that Miss Madison is a talented actress with a bright future. It's not her fault she's in something so terrible. The adults, however, should know better.
Parental Guidance is available on DVD and Blu-ray from April 24, 2013.