SYNOPSIS: When Phil finds himself on the verge of success with his invention, he asks his wife Alice to join him at an awards conference. When Phil and Alice fail to get suitable watchers for their three children, they are forced to ask Alice's parents to watch them.
REVIEW: The Game Plan and You Again director Andy Fickman takes on a family torn apart by different views on child rearing. Based on a screenplay written by Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse (Surf's Up), and Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (Tooth Fairy), Fickman brings Billy Crystal back to the land of big screen live-action.
Phil (Tom Everett Scott, Mars Needs Moms) and Alice (Marisa Tomei, The Ides of March) find themselves in a unique position of success with Phil's smart house invention RLife. When Phil's parents are unable to watch their three kids Harper (Bailee Madison, Just Go With It), Turner (Joshua Rush, Puss in Boots), and Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf, Being Human), Alice is forced to ask her parents Artie (Billy Crystal, Monster's, Inc.) and Diane (Bette Midler, Beaches) to watch them. Because of the more modern way that Phil and Alice have raised their children, Alice fears that Artie and Diane's old-school way of child rearing. But when Artie an Diane are faced with trying Alice's modern methods to keep the kids in line, they find themselves completely out of their parenting depth.
Billy Crystal has been very busy working on his voice, with Monsters, Inc. and other animated adventures. In his first live-action film in a few years, Crystal falls back on what's he's comfortable - voice work. In Parental Guidance, Crystal's Artie Decker is the De Voice of the Grizzlies, a minor league baseball team. He and Midler's Diane must both work outside their comfort zone to appease their daughter's request to use more modern methods of child rearing. A simple "No!" is now "Think about the consequences." Raising one's voice is now considered a "Red" voice and must be replaced by the calmer, cooler "Blue" voice. The theories of the new parenting era seem utterly strange and foreign to two grandparents who thought they had done a good job raising their own child to adulthood.
From the trailers, I did not have high hopes for this Christmas release. But the movie itself, written by the creators of Steve Martin's Parenthood, is a silly success. More of a hi-jinks story, Parental Guidance does not take itself too seriously, while still offering a few tender life lesson gems into the mix. The absolute structure that Alice has regimented to her kids leads to all sorts of situations that usually involve Artie with the proverbial egg on his face or a pair of swollen... pride. But with Crystal, the pranks and gags are not all physical.
Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz have written for Billy Crystal a few times in the past, collaborating with Crystal on City Slickers, City Slickers II, Forget Paris, and Mr. Saturday Night. While there are plenty of sight gags in this effort, some of the funny charm also comes from Billy's dialogue delivery. When Artie gets canned from his gig as a baseball announcer, he and the ball club's general manager have a great exchange revolving around Artie's lack of knowledge in social media. Crystal also brings his real life love of American's favorite pastime into the story as both the former announcer of the Grizzlies, and his passion for radio commentaries of the past, including the one dubbed "The Shot Heard Around The World".
All of the cast was cherry picked to perfection. Marisa Tomei is great as the neurotic mother trying to raise her kids completely different from her parent's raising of her. That Thing You Do's Tom Everett Scott comes as Alice's voice of reason, trying to get her to take a deep breath, step away from her kids for a moment without doubting every decision she has made. Joshua Rush's Turner has a persistent stuttering and is the object of the local school bully. Kyle Harrison Breitkopf's Barker has an imaginary friend in the unseen form of a kangaroo named Carl to deal with.
And oldest of the children, Harper, played by Bailee Madison, is on the verge of relinquishing her childhood forever in an attempt to live her life according to her mother's misguidance. The show stealer, though, is Gedde Watanabe as the Healthy Tiger Panasian Restaurant owner Mr. Cheng (Sixteen Candles), who lamentation after a car collision is hilarious and confusing!
Parental Guidance is the perfect light fare to enjoy if the other Christmas Day releases are not your speed. Silly and not too serious, it will make you laugh. You may even reflect even more on the children you have raised and set off into the world.
★ ★ ★ 1/2 out of 5 buckets | Matinee or DVD
Rated: PG Some rude humor.
Release Date: December 25, 2012
Runtime: 1 hour 45 minutes
Director: Andy Fickman
Writers: Lisa Addario, Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel, Joe Syracuse
Cast: Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei, Tom Everett Scott, Bailee Madison, Joshua Rush, Kyle Harrison Breitkopf, Gedde Watanabe