If “Parental Guidance” is the drivel that’s passing for family fare this winter, then it’s best to just keep your family warm and entertained at home.
Replete with disgusting body-function “jokes,” unlikeable characters and unfunny situations, this is without a doubt one of the biggest duds of the year.
Billy Crystal and Bette Midler play Artie and Diane, grandparents who are asked to baby-sit their carefully brought-up grandchildren. Grandpa has just lost his job and wants to hide this from his only child, Alice (Marisa Tomei). He does share his plight with his wife, who is eager to see the three grandchildren she has not visited in quite some time. Alice is reluctant to leave her children, but she does want to accompany her husband to a conference, so she eventually decides her kids will be all right with her parents.
Of course we learn right away that the relationship between Grandpa and his daughter was strained. Get it? It’s all about a parent redeeming himself through his grandchildren.
And then ... guess what? Each child has issues. The youngest is willful, impulsive and simply out of control, the middle child stutters and the oldest is a compulsive overachiever who decides it’s more important to practice her music lessons than attend the party for a boy she likes. Because this is a simple retread of the “fish-out-of-water” formula, the grandparents can naturally come to the rescue.
The youngest grandson calls his grandfather by a naughty name that everyone else in the family seems to think is cute. It’s another example of disrespectful, mean-spirited children that seems to be a staple of less-than-stellar screenplays. Then there’s a toilet scene that’s possibly the most sickening sequence of any 2012 movie. This has one of the highest body-function quotients I’ve seen in a film for quite some time. One scatological scene involves skateboarding legend Tony Hawk. I won’t go into details, but this has to be one of the low points of his career.
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The low-brow approach to humor feels dated, predictable and far below the capabilities of the cast. In particular, Bailee Madison as the high-strung granddaughter deserves better than this. She outperforms the veterans around her, appearing to be in a more high-caliber film. (She is the sole reason this earned half a star from me.)
Believe me, your family deserves better than this junk.