‘Parental Guidance’ a waste of Billy Crystal’s and Bette Midler’s talents
“Parental Guidance,” directed by Andy Fickman and starring Billy Crystal, Bette Midler and Marisa Tomei, is a terrible film peppered with juvenile jokes about bodily functions that will not amuse adults, and boring relationship scenes that will not amuse children, writes freelancer Tom K
Special to The Seattle Times
‘Parental Guidance,’ with Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Tom Everett Scott and Marisa Tomei. Directed by Andy Fickman, written by Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse. 96 minutes. Rated PG. Several theaters.
From a bounty of low, low moments in “Parental Guidance,” it’s difficult to choose the absolute lowest.
Perhaps it’s the scene where legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk, during a demonstration of his skills, slips in a pool of urine and goes tumbling. Or maybe it’s the sight of Billy Crystal — yes, that’s right: Billy Crystal — singing a lulling tune to his character’s grandson in hopes the kid will be productive while on a toilet.
Or it could be the moment where Crystal vomits in a boy’s face.
Sense a pattern? It’s hard to know who’s supposed to enjoy “Parental Guidance.” On one hand, six-year-olds will be amused by not-so-private bodily functions. Then again, those same children will yawn at the many relationship discussions in the script.
Adults in the audience, meanwhile, will grasp various tensions between family members. But do they really want to see T-ball players examining the contents of one boy’s nose?
Good intentions are lost in “Parental Guidance’s” frantic pacing and juvenile humor. Crystal plays Artie, a longtime baseball announcer who loses his job at the same moment his estranged daughter, Alice (Marisa Tomei), asks him and her mom, Diane (Bette Midler), to take care of her three kids for a few days.
That request kicks up some sad history for Artie and Alice, who were once very close but are no longer. It also pits Artie’s old-fashioned ideas about child-rearing against Alice’s Type-A mix of over-protectiveness and high expectations. Artie becomes a cranky critic of Little League games where no player is ever struck out (in order to prevent hurt feelings) and of adults lavishly praising children who do next to nothing.
But he’s also a bungler who apologizes constantly for such antics as disrupting a symphony orchestra’s performance or letting a youngster watch “Saw.” The script relentlessly mines Artie’s gracelessness for laughs, making his more poignant moments feel stiff and out of place.
Also lost in the mayhem is Midler, who shines at times but is superfluous overall. Her scenes with Crystal should have generated exciting chemistry, but director Andy Fickman (“You Again”) couldn’t even manage such a sure thing.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org