”Parental Guidance” is a movie you want to like. It has a great cast and a good, if timeworn plot.
Artie Decker (Billy Crystal) is the announcer for the Fresno Grizzlies minor league baseball team. It's his life. He has bobblehead dolls in his image and his face plastered around the ballpark. His spirited wife Diane (Bette Midler) keeps her husband happy and supports him. They are a couple who obviously are in love after decades of marriage.
Artie's world crashes around him when he is fired after the last game of the season. He has no idea what he will do next.
In Atlanta, a house run by a computer runs the lives of the Simmons family. Phil (Tom Everett Scott) has won an award for his design of this computerized house and wants his wife Alice (Marisa Tomei) to come to the award ceremony with him, a week away from their three rambunctious children — daughter and violin phenom Harper (Bailee Madison), and sons Turner, who stutters, and Barker, whose imaginary friend Carl is a kangaroo.
After the usual list of baby sitters fails, Alice must call her parents, Artie and Diane.
They arrive, excited to spend time with their grandchildren, to discover the feeling isn't mutual. They are horrified to discover they are the “Other Grandparents.”
The children have been raised by every modern parenting book in print. They are never told no, they aren't punished and they all eat whatever they want from their limited list of approved foods.
From the moment the parents attempt to leave, things between the children and grandparents start going bad.
Alice stays for an extra day or two and her father discovers she works for ESPN. He is stunned she never told him. She clearly wishes her parents were anywhere but in Atlanta and interferes with anything they try to do.
Barker creates a rude name for his grandfather and sticks with it. Turner ignores him completely.
Harper is drawn to her grandmother and the first bridge is crossed. Artie, though, cannot do anything right with either boy. He insults Turner's speech pathologist and Barker is such a brat the only thing he understands is bribery.
A highlight of the movie the baseball tirade seen in the movie trailers. Turner is on a baseball team in a league where there are no outs, score isn't kept and every game is a tie. Arties violently disagrees with this, as do many of the other parents.
When Diane forces her daughter to join her husband at the awards ceremony, their old-fashioned games, breaking house rules and their obvious love for each other begin to sway all three children.
There are a lot of scenes with bathroom humor in them, especially one featuring Artie and Barker in a stall in a men's bathroom where the boy can't potty unless a song is involved. Keep this scene in mind because it makes a surprise appearance after the credits.
A game of “Kick the Can” finally brings the Deckers and the Simmons children together as a family, and also starts the final tangle of problems involving a restaurant owner, Artie and Diane, all the Simmons plus Carl, and the police.
Every family has generational problems and always will. The problems at the heart of “Parental Guidance” are the ones between Alice and her parents. Like every parent, at some point they realize their parents weren't as bad as they recall, and maybe they may have some pointers on how to keep a family thriving.
As was said at the beginning of this review, I wanted to like this movie. There were moments of lightness, but for the most part, the shenanigans with the children were contrived and the consequences heavy-handed.
That being said, there are much worse ways to spend some time in a movie theater than watching Crystal and Midler steal every scene they are in. Their duet of “Book of Love” is one to be savored.
This is a movie in which every family member will find something to enjoy, at least for a little while.
— Sandi Davis