As we turn the page from one year to another and one decade to the next, new and different styles of filmmaking trends emerge. The 80’s are forever cemented in history with blockbuster hits from Steven Spielberg and a plethora of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone action flicks. In the 90’s we transitioned to Die Hard and more empathetic characters. As we rolled into the new millennium technology began growing exponentially and so did the use of CG. Another trend that has emerged over the past decade is over-the-top comedy. With every movie it seems the bar is set even higher for shock factor. Movies have gotten to the point where they are either so far over-the-top they are no longer enjoyable or they are so heavy handed with CG there is no plot to be found. Thankfully not all movies suffer such ill fate. Keep reading to find out where Parental Guidance falls within the spectrum.
A series of events unfold which lead to Artie and Diane agreeing to watch their three estranged grandchildren for a week. Calamity ensues when a highly techno-centric couple turns over their kids to two old school grandparents who are not techno savvy. Artie has been a baseball announcer for the minor leagues for roughly three decades and has always dreamed of announcing for the San Francisco Giants. He is let go at the end of the season and doesn’t want his daughter to know. Through Artie’s pursuit to continue his dream, he realizes how much he has missed of his daughter’s life and his grandchildren’s lives. Diane on the other hand, is eager to please and simply wants to be the favorite grandparent. She does everything in her power to make her grandchildren like her. The series of events which unfolds is utterly hysterical and heartwarming at the same time.
Billy Crystal (When Harry Met Sally, Analyze This) plays Artie Decker and does an incredible job. He really shines in this role as a parent/grandparent who is self-centered and solely focused on his career. Given that this film is rated PG, it is surprising just how funny most of the jokes are in the film. Kudos to Crystal for pulling off one of his funniest films to date. Bette Midler (Beaches, The First Wives Club) plays Diane Decker, Artie’s wife. Her only mission in this film is to be “The Grandparents.” She wants their pictures on the fireplace and for the grandchildren to love them the most. Bette delivers a performance that is funny and believable, but over-dramatic during certain portions of the film. Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler, The Lincoln Lawyer) was a surprising choice to play Alice Simmons, daughter of Artie and Diane, a woman that is 10 years her junior. Marisa is very talented and actually pulls off the part quite well. Once you get past the role and become engaged in her performance, you really start to see her in this character. Tom Everett Scott (That Thing You Do!, Dead Man on Campus) plays Phil Simmons, Alice’s husband. Tom plays a believable part as a successful/busy father, but it is a smaller role so it’s hard to really comment on his performance as a whole. He did a fine job with the role he was given.
Looking at the child actors, they actually did a great job. Bailee Madison (Brothers, Just Go With It) plays Harper Simmons, the oldest child. She has really come into her own over the past couple of years, making appearances in some big films. She delivers a believable performance and helps add to the film’s overall emotional depth. Joshua Rush (Megamind, Puss in Boots) plays Turner Simmons, the middle child. Joshua does a good job playing a child with a stuttering problem. He adds to the overall dramatic depth of this playful comedy. Kyle Harrison Breitkopf (Rookie Blue – TV Series, Against the Wall – TV Series) plays Barker Simmons, the youngest of three children. Kyle’s part by far, is the funniest of the three children. Kyle does a great job of delivering on his part and at such a young age. Kudos to the casting director for finding Kyle. The final actor, who really does deserve to be mentioned in this review is Gedde Watanabe (Sixteen Candles, Forgetting Sarah Marshall). Gedde plays Mr. Cheng, the owner of a “Pan-Asian” Dining establishment. While Gedde’s part is small, he delivers a large, powerful and hilarious performance. Gedde really proves the old saying, “there are no small parts, only small actors.”
The director for Parental Guidance was Andy Fickman (The Game Plan, Race to Witch Mountain). Andy was a great choice for this film as he really made this material jump off the screen. He did that without using special effects, but simply through great directing of a great cast. He was a logical choice given the sheer number of children’s movies he has directed over the years. As you watch this movie you can tell there is a great deal of experience behind the camera. There were seasoned actors with younger actors and they all seemed to mesh well and pull off command performances. This movie isn’t going to take home any Oscar nominations, but it is good family fun and hysterical to boot. It’s a funny movie that will entertain children and adults alike. Kudos to Andy for pulling this all together and directing something that will make people laugh out loud.
Parental Guidance was penned by the screenwriting duo of Lisa Addario (Surf’s Up, Lover Girl) and Joe Syracuse (Surf’s Up, Lover Girl). Both Lisa and Joe only have a handful of titles under their belts. The film was surprisingly good considering the number of movies they have written. However, as a team they seem to have found a chemistry that jumps off the screen. Although, it would appear that Billy Crystal brought his own bag of tricks to the silver screen, doing quite a bit of ad-libbing in this movie. That being said, the movie is a solid choice for a Christmas Day movie release in theaters. There are some predictable parts of the movie and scenes that have been done before, but overall it’s a wonderfully amusing, laugh out loud family comedy. The movie was well written and it is evident that everyone did their job to ensure a box office success.
If you are a fan of Billy Crystal you should see this movie. This is one of his finest films in recent years. He’s back and better than ever. The movie is actually better than it seems to be in the trailers. It’s done tastefully and is appropriate for all ages. It’s not a PG movie that is pushing the boundaries of a PG-13. You should feel safe in taking your younger children to see this movie. The laughs are sprinkled throughout the entire film and there are plenty of laughs for adults and children alike. The movie is quite simply good, clean fun for the entire family. It does not suffer from heavy-handed computer graphics sequences. It’s not a reboot or a recycled film. There are no cinematography marvels or scenes that will make you gasp. This movie is a good old fashioned family movie, perfectly timed to release on Christmas Day. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you from all of us at BigFanBoy.com.