Parental Guidance

I did not have high hopes for Parental Guidance based on its previews, even though I'm a big fan of both Bette Midler and Billy Crystal. To be honest, it looked like a typical "family" movie that was all sap and no substance. However, I found myself actually enjoying the film, and most of the jokes throughout it were actually pretty funny.

Alice (Marisa Tomei) and her husband Phil (Tom Everett Scott) have three young kids, and haven't taken a vacation in forever. When Phil gets to go on a trip to present on his "smart house," R-Life, he asks Alice to go with him. Unfortunately, Phil's parents aren't free to watch the kids for the duration of their trip, so they're forced to call "the other grandparents" - Alice's parents, Diane (Midler) and Artie (Crystal). Alice and Phil's parenting style was very different from Alice and Phil's, however, and she gives them strict instructions: no sugar for the kids (ha ...), and they all have rigid schedules. They also live in an R-Life prototype house which causes some problems for Artie and Diane, since they're not used to a house that's so technologically advanced; even turning on the microwave turns out to be a challenge. The kids all pose different and unique problems for the two as well, but with some "tough love" they learn to work their way through them.

The kids in this movie were adorable, though I have to say - who would name their kid Barker? (the parents are apparently fond of -er names, because their kids are named Harper, Turner, and Barker, too)
Bailee Madison plays Turner, their 13-year-old daughter and oldest child, who is obsessed with practicing the violin so she can get the only spot open in the Atlanta Youth Symphony. Turner has a speech impediment, and is often made fun of at school; Barker is the youngest and is definitely a handful, and he soon learns that he can make some cash off "Uncle Fartie," as he calls him, if he cooperates with Artie and doesn't cause trouble. Crystal and Midler shine here, as well, in their respective roles, and I've missed seeing Midler in films; her last was The Women, in 2008, not counting voice roles. Tomei and her husband also do well here, though their screen time is not as extensive as Crystal and Midler's.

Yes, see this film. There's definitely a few bodily functions jokes throughout, including one unpleasant vomiting scene, but that's almost expected, since this is a "family movie" that panders to all ages. I kind of wish the R-Life house was real, as it's pretty cool, and a few of the jokes derive from that; during once scene, when Tomei unexpectedly arrives back home, the house's touchscreen asks if Artie and Turner would like to continue watching Saw (a film that Turner is not allowed to watch), and it showed a picture of them watching it, both of their faces comically terrified. Parental Guidance is not a bad choice for those looking for a cute film to see over the holidays, and since I went into it with low expectations, I was pleasantly surprised.

Parental Guidance is in theaters today, December 25th, and is rated PG with a runtime of 104 minutes. 3.5 stars out of 5.

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