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 for 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, 5 — have play dates, ball games and rehearsals. Violinist daughter Harper (Bailee Madison) would discover boys, if she weren’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 who 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.