Review: ‘Parental Guidance’ is too sweet to leave a sour taste Special

Posted Dec 29, 2012 by Sarah Gopaul
‘Parental Guidance’ is about a couple of old school grandparents trying to adapt to their daughter’s 21st century parenting style when they’re asked to watch their grandkids.
Fox Films Canada
A lot of people are afraid of one day turning into their parents. They all vow to be different – better – parents when they have kids of their own. Then the day comes when they have their own little bundle of responsibility, and low and behold they've succeeded – their parenting style has nothing in common with that of their parents. In Parental Guidance, one of these daughters is forced to face her worst nightmare: allowing her parents to watch her children for several consecutive days.
Artie (Billy Crystal) and Diane (Bette Midler) feel they did a good job with their only child, Alice (Marisa Tomei). She, on the other hand, despises their parenting tactics and has chosen an entirely different path for her own three kids (Bailee Madison, Joshua Rush and Kyle Harrison Breitkopf). But when no one else is available to watch them when Alice and her husband (Tom Everett Scott) have an important business event to attend out-of-town, she's forced to ask her parents to stay with them. The responsibility comes with a list of do's and don'ts, but the grandparents have a little trouble following the instructions which results in a lot of chaos.
This movie is incredibly sweet. The kids are cute, the grandparents are well meaning and caring, and the automated house is entertaining. From school bullies to imaginary friends to first crushes, these kids experience it all during the course of their grandparents stay. Of course even though Artie and Diane's methods vary, the kids survive learning important lessons and marking important milestones.
To some extent this movie just moves from one gag or gimmick to the next. From crotch gags to a song and dance number (Midler is in the movie after all) to the confusion of technology for older people to sugar-induced tantrums. It leaves no shtick unturned. Most of these play well, but it also becomes predictable and episodic.
Midler and Crystal make a great pair. Together, they're funny, caring and have solid chemistry. Both are very expressive and well experienced with this style of comedy. Tomei, sadly and surprisingly, is one of the film's weaker elements. Her character isn't very likeable and her performance is lacking. The kids are good, though they're guilty of hashing it up a little too much in certain scenes. And to add to the comedic expectancy, Sixteen Candles' Gedde Watanabe is a restaurant owner who feels like one of the family.
It's definitely a feel good movie, making it the perfect family friendly holiday pick – just remember not to grumble when it doesn’t offer any more than that.
Director: Andy Fickman
Starring: Billy Crystal, Bette Midler and Marisa Tomei