"Parental Guidance": sentimental works


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Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2012, 11:17 am
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By Roger Moore


The family-friendliest movie comedy this holiday season is also the sappiest and schmaltziest.And thanks to Billy Crystal, the shtickiest.

"Parental Guidance" is a mild-mannered riff on parenting, then-and-now. It contrasts the top-down/career-first mentality of one generation with the coddled "nurturing" of today, but never takes a stand on which is better.

Basically, it's a vehicle for Billy Crystal, and to a lesser degree Bette Midler, to riff on the spoiled, over-indulged and sometimes uptight kids their kid is raising.

Artie (Crystal) is a minor league baseball announcer who never got to his dream job, covering San Francisco Giants games. He's content to make homespun wisecracks in front of the mike for the Fresno Grizzlies. Until they lay him off before being not hip, not social media savvy.

"I'll tweet! I'll make whatever noise you want!"His retired "weather girl" wife Diane interrupts her pole-dance aerobics class to comfort him and listen to his lies about how young he "feels."

"You're 38? Paint the house!"

Daughter Alice (Marisa Tomei) is a web designer living in Atlanta with husband Phil (Tom Everett Scott) in the totally computerized house Phil designed.

Their kids -- 12, 8 and 5 -- have play dates, ball games and rehearsals. Violinist daughter Harper (Bailee Madison) would discover boys, if she wasn't stressing over a big audition that sets up her Berlin Philharmonic life plan. Turner (Joshua Rush) is a bullied stammerer whose little league doesn't keep score, denying him the chance to excel at anything. And Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf) is a mop-topped terror with an imaginary kangaroo friend.

Into this world come "the OTHER grandparents," the West Coast couple that never sees them because Artie has been all about the job all his life. They're not the first choice, but Phil and Alice have a get-away planned – if only Alice can let go.

Whatever Artie and Diane did with Alice isn't good enough for Alice's kids.She takes their finicky dinner orders, by text. The kids aren't allowed sugar, are ferried hither and yon to appointments _ touchy-feely speech therapy for Turner, violin lessons from a Russian "Tiger Mom" for Harper. Tofu mom Alice never lets them hear the word "No."

Crystal delivers tepidly caustic rants, Midler invokes the occasional inappropriate life lesson to Harper and Tomei struggles to find anything fun about playing a smothering mother. The laughs are, to use the old fashioned term, telegraphed, with director Andy Fickman ("The Game Plan") clearing the decks to make every laugh line a stale showcase moment for his stars.

A Billy and Bette duet of "Who Wrote the Book of Love" is cute, but the setup is sluggish it has no life. A quicker, more cluttered movie would have been funnier.

There are sparks between generations, but with the exception of Madison, the child actors are in over their heads and the adults seem as if they've just met.

At least the sentimental stuff works. And the toilet jokes.





'PARENTAL GUIDANCE'


MPAA rating: PG for some rude humor
Length: 100 minutes
Verdict: 2 stars














 



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  Today is Tuesday, July 29, the 210th day of 2014. There are 155 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Col. H.F. Sickless informs us that there will be new organization of troops in this state under the call for more men.
1889 -- 125 years ago: James Normoyle arrived home after graduating from West Point with honors in the class of 1889. He was to report to Fort Brady, Mich., as second lieutenant in the 23rd Infantry.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Austria Hungary declared war on Serbia. Germany and Austria refused an invitation of Sir Edward Grey to join Great Britain at a mediation conference.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Dr. William Mayo, the last of the three famous Mayo brother surgeons, died at the age of 78.
1964 -- 50 years ago: One of the biggest horse shows of the season was held yesterday at Hillandale Arena on Knoxville Road under the sponsorship of the Illowa Horsemen's Club.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Davenport is like a gigantic carnival this weekend with the Bix Arts Fest taking over 12 square blocks of the downtown area. A festive atmosphere prevailed Friday as thousands of people turned out to sample what the Arts Fest has to offer.








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