Billy Crystal stars in this comedy about a grandfather forced to mind his three grandkids for an entire week. Also stars Marisa Tomei, Tom Everett Scott and Hollywood dame Bette Midler. Now playing nationwide.
In his first top-billed role since 2002’s Analyze That, Billy Crystal leads a film that parallels his recent Oscar-hosting performance in terms of cautiously inoffensive humour. To my delight, his comedic charisma is still intact after a decade’s absence, and his pairing with Bette Midler is an inspired one. Unfortunately, the script works against them more than it does with them.
Crystal and Midler play a pair of second-favourite grandparents, tasked with looking after three grandkids exposed to a super-liberal upbringing. The oldies struggle to adapt to this ‘updated’ form of parenting, confusing Chinese food with ‘Pan Asian’, using politically correct ‘acceptance terms’ in place of ‘don’t’, and suffering the consequences of feeding sugar-deprived kids ice-cream cake.
The film’s at its most amusing when it highlights these pros and cons of both generations’ styles of parenting, which makes it even more frustrating when it drifts away to worn-out gags. For every pleasantly droll observation on parenting tactics it offers, the film returns three scenes of embarrassing lameness equal to your dad doing Gangnam style. I can appreciate a good baseball-bat-to-the-groin joke, but it’s hard to credit the comedic value of a child urinating on live television or singing about doodies in a public bathroom.
With an underdeveloped resolution that ties everything up all too neatly, Parental Guidance is family fluff at its fluffiest. It may work for some, but you’ll find smarter and more ambitious humour in a single episode of Modern Family.