I’ve just discovered the ‘must see’ movie of the holiday season and despite the play on words “Parental Guidance” is fun for the whole family. My wife and youngest two kids (12yo and 14yo) went to see Billy Crystal’s new movie on Wednesday night and we’re giving it more than two thumbs up. The kids pushed through the initial shock factor when we told them they were seeing the voice of Mike Wazowski (Monsters Inc) in real life and we all settled in to an enjoyable night.
The 64yo Crystal is joined by the ageless Bette Midler as the ‘other Grandparents’ who are called on to help their ‘successful’ daughter get a much needed break. These modern parents have kept each of their unique kids in line with a plan for success but have since become disconnected from the grandparents. Next we find a serendipity of events brings everybody together where some wisdom and age are able to bring the family together with some old fashioned common sense.
Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a justification for the ‘old ways’. The heart of this movie comes from Billy Crystal being able to put himself at the centre of the humour. The opening story shows Crystal’s character as a Baseball game announcer who loses his job. Just when our empathy level is reasonably reaching its peak we also see the thoughtlessness and selfish stupidity that also needs to be brought into check. The whole script is a brilliant vehicle for Billy Crystal and you would think you were attending a 100min long introduction to the Oscars he is so famous for hosting. Bette Midler keeps guiding Crystal and the rest of the family through the experience and thankfully we also got an opportunity to hear her sing as well as matching Billy Crystal’s comedic genius with a glint and a glare. The screenplay itself centres around the family’s patterns and schedules. It’s a sugar free environment that needs care and control, two factors that will be missing in order to stir up a recipe for bedlam. A classic piece involves Crystal trying to get out of his parental duties to audition as an announcer for the X-Games where Tony Hawk is in a cameo role skating a half-pipe and putting him at the centre of a recipe for disaster. The comedy and consequences are brilliant as the entire story comes together.
Marisa Tomei gave a superb performance as a Mum stressed to ‘burn-out’ with a heart of gold. Her husband Phil the electronics genius is played by Tom Everett Scott who brings the calming influence to the story apart from when his alter-ego ‘Nigel’ appears on the scene. The real joy though comes from the three grandchildren, Harper, Turner and Barker. Bailee Madison brings a long list of credits to the role of Harper a tense young 12yo violinist who needs to let go and live life but wants to please her Mum in pursuit of a music scholarship. Her younger brother Turner is the speech impaired 8yo played by Joshua Rush. The irony of this role for this young actor is that he has quite a number of acting credits particularly as a voice actor for animated performances but it’s in this role that he hits a ‘home run’ in the closing scenes. Cutie pie award however goes to Kyle Harrison Breitkopf who plays the precocious 5yo Barker. The red head is dynamite and lace on screen. Add to that his acting sidekick character of Carl the imaginary kangaroo friend and you’ve got quite a team. One of the best scenes of the movie involves Carl and Gedde Watanabe in the role of family friend and ‘Pan Asian’ restaurant owner Mr Cheng. The emotion and laughs from these few minutes is worth the movie ticket alone.
As we talked about Parental Guidance on the way home we all agreed this was a movie that had a laugh for everybody and a message for every age group. The grandparents learned to contribute their time and wisdom as well as to roll in the mud with the grandchildren. For the parents it was time to relax and let their Mum and Dad take the reins and the kids picked up a few pointers on life from the mistakes and lessons learned by their elders as well as the love and confidence a family can bring.
Parental Guidance needs no excuse for anyone in the family. Take the 6 year old, the teenagers, bring Mum and Dad to pay for popcorn and the grandparents to buy the ice-creams on the way home. 4 out of 5 popcorns.
Reviewed by: Andrew Pitchford