We hastened to catch the current film, “Parental Guidance,” at our favorite cineplex, because we usually enjoy the screen performances of its stars, Billy Crystal and Bette Midler.
The star comedians play grandparents in their new co-starrer, and the storytelling has it that their daughter has asked them to babysit their three grandkids for a few days, while she and her husband take a long break from their parental duties.
The grandparents are very glad to help, because they fret that the kids don’t know and love them as much as they do their dad’s parents.
They hope that their time together now will make up for that—but, that isn’t what happens! In fact, they can’t connect with their grandchildren, because they’ve been brought up in a radically “modern” way that has made them oh, so difficult to understand and handle!
Conflict rears its pointy head right from the start, so the old folks have their hands full just trying to effect some damage control.
To make things worse, Crystal’s character has just been fired from his job as a sports announcer, so he’s definitely at loose ends. In the light of this conflicted scenario, Midler’s character has her work cut out for her to salvage what’s left of their few days with their grandkids, so that their visit doesn’t end up as a total disaster.
—So far, so promising. With its problematic prospects all laid out in a row, we expect the movie to let loose with salvo after salvo of “generational” humor.
But, when the jokes and funny predicaments are unleashed, some of them turn out to be more tendentious than really funny.
Even the veteran stars’ vast experience can’t completely make up for the slack, so we end up giving the movie A for attempted humor, seldom much more.
Despite this less-than-consistently slap-happy state of affairs, however, we can credit this production for its spot-on casting of its child actors, each of whom imbues his or her role with a lot of comedy smarts and fresh-faced charm.
Best of all, “Parental Guidance” shares many insights into how kids and their grandparents can bridge the many decades and radically differing mind-sets that separate them.
The most helpful insight is that both generations have to unbend and do their best to understand each other. That may be a tough row to hoe at times, but if they really love one another, they should give it their best try—and thus achieve a truly multigenerational extended family—which is infinitely better than the abridged, nuclear sort!
What about Crystal and Midler? This may not be the most riotously funny movie they’ve ever acted in, but they still manage to survive its leaden scripting and messy mirth-making—with their stellar reputations and appeal relatively intact!