In Parental Guidance, Artie Decker (Billy Crystal) is an aging minor league baseball announcer who is as out of touch with today’s culture and technology as he is with his grandchildren, whom he has only seen a few times in their lives. His wife, Diane (Bette Midler), is hesitantly called out-of-the-blue by their daughter, Alice (Marisa Tomei), who needs them to spend five days babysitting her three children so that she and her husband, Phil (Tom Everett Scott), can go off on a holiday. Artie says no, but Diane says yes, and off goes this predictable comedy.
Grandparents have been known to show up with inappropriate gifts, and Artie is no different. He brings toy squirt guns for the kids, but his uptight daughter quickly teaches him that guns, sugar, and anything remotely fun is not permitted. Her house and her community is one where the children are monitored, coddled, and shielded for their own good. This “enlightened” approach to child rearing baffles Artie, since the only affects he sees from this lifestyle are negative. The youngest grandchild, Barker, has an imaginary kangaroo that tells him to act up and do bad things. His older brother, Turner, is a social outcast who stutters, while the oldest, Harper, is about to have a mental breakdown after her mother forces her to practice playing the violin to get into the best schools.
Artie, of course, lacks the ability/desire to follow his daughter’s rules. He manages to feed the boys ice cream cake, lets Turner watch horror movies, and almost gets Barker run over at the X Games. In the end, Artie and Diane win over their grandchildren, solve all their problems, and Artie reconnects with his estranged daughter.
While the movie’s one-liners will keep you laughing sporadically throughout the film, the plot is predictable and overly sappy. Billy Crystal’s character feels very similar to many of his past characters; although I was surprised I enjoyed watching him throughout the film as much as I did. He and Bette Midler have great chemistry and are very believable as an old married couple. For the rest of the family, I have great trouble finding anything I like about them, which makes their transformation at the end of the film anticlimactic.
Parental Guidance, directed by Andy Fickman and starring Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, and Marisa Tomei gets 3 stars out of 5.