Directed by Andy Fickman. Starring Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei, Tom Everett Scott, Bailee Madison, Joshua Rush G cert, general release, 104 min
About halfway through this surprisingly atrocious family comedy – be honest, Bette Midler and Billy Crystal sound like a fun combination – any sense of balance breaks down with a bizarre rant from the veteran male lead.
Annoyed by his grandson’s poor behaviour at a classical concert, Mr C upends the young man in front of the conductor’s podium, raises his hand threateningly and begins bellowing about the way kids today never get to hear the word “no”.
To that point, Parental Guidance appears open to a compromise between traditional and modern childrearing practises. In a nod towards the immeasurably superior Uncle Buck, Marisa Tomei, summoned to some conference or other, ponders every alternative option before asking mum and dad to mind her three neurotic children for the week. Grandparents of the old-school, they are not at home to the child psychiatrists, the ban on toy guns and the refusal to lay down hard rules.
Initially, Bette and Billy come across as a little silly and out of touch. But Crystal’s eventual breakdown permits no further ambiguity: this film is filled with loathing for a perceived decadence among American parents. Quite right too.
This is the only point at which Parental Guidance seems even half-alive. The remaining 90 minutes are taken up with ghastly jokes, pointless filler and nauseating wads of sentimentality. Everybody is appalling. Midler mugs desperately. Tomei looks as if
she’s just woken up from a drug- induced coma.
Crystal, whose face appears to have been recently inflated by a bicycle pump, reaches a complete nadir when – for reasons we can’t be bothered to explain – he is forced to reverse his baseball cap and impersonate a skateboarding enthusiast.
Why are they being so indulged? Why will nobody say “no” to these people? I’m not angry with you. I’m just very, very disappointed.