Parental Guidance

A scene from Parental Guidance

A scene from Parental Guidance

I was delighted to see Parental Guidance, the movie starring two of my favorites, Billy Crystal and Bette Midler. They play Artie and Diane Decker, a middle-aged married couple living in Fresno, California. When Artie and Diane receive a phone call from their daughter Alice (Marisa Tomei), they are surprised that she asks them to babysit her children for a week. Alice and her family live in Atlanta, and the Decker’s have not been close to their grandchildren. Diane jumps at the opportunity to be a part of the lives of her grandchildren, but Artie goes along reluctantly.

The grandparents, especially Artie, are classic “fish out of water” in the Simmons household. The house is totally high-tech; it is a prototype of a new smart house, developed by Alice’s husband Phil. Artie and Diane are totally overwhelmed by the technology. They are also confounded by the child-rearing principles espoused by Alice and Phil.

Artie and Diane are classic old-school parents-down to earth and not afraid to say what they think. Alice and Phil, on the other hand, are modern perfectionist helicopter parents, with unrealistic expectations for their childrens’ behavior. And this clash of styles is the basis for this very funny, if a bit predictable, movie.

A have a few minor issues with Parental Guidance. Artie and Diane, and particularly Artie,  are portrayed as a bit too clueless for modern grandparents.  I would also like to have seen more Bette Midler and less Billy Crystal. Although as one of the producers, I guess Crystal has the right to be in as many scenes as he’d like. And Marisa Tomei is too old to be playing the daughter of Midler and Crystal. She looks great but still…

Parental Guidance is funny and heart-warming, and there may even be a few teary moments. It is suitable for almost all ages-the children are cute and charming, the parents overwrought, and the grandparents inept but  willing to learn.

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