NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

December 28, 2012

Sentiment works in 'Parental Guidance'

(Continued)

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 so 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.

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