Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
December 24, 2012
1/2* (out of four)
Rather than fun for the whole family, "Parental Guidance" is more like a hole for the fun family--a shrill, depressing pit where laughs and joy do not exist.
Played by squawking human parrot Billy Crystal, Artie can't even sit down without delivering a one-liner ("The older I get, the lower the floor gets"). Somehow this chatterbox has spent decades as a renowned minor league baseball announcer, even though his commentary includes, for example, comparing a woman's appearance to Jerry Garcia while her boyfriend proposes to her. Nice guy, that Artie--who's soon fired from his job because, in a nutshell, he doesn't know what Facebook poking and hashtags are.
He's so nice, in fact, that he wants to pass on the opportunity for he and his wife Diane (Bette Midler) to babysit their three grandchildren when Artie and Diane's daughter Alice (Marisa Tomei) and her husband Phil (Tom Everett Scott) go out of town. (He's up for an award as a result of the high-tech "smart house" he invented.) Diane insists, and they take the gig, although Alice struggles to leave the kids in her unreliable parents' care. Having dubbed their kids Harper, Turner and Barker, Alice and Phil also seem to have an issue with first names.
Anyway, it's no wonder Alice has her reservations. Artie rudely tells Turner's (Joshua Rush) speech therapist how to do her job and compares Barker's car-seat belt to his grandma's bra; Diane discusses drinking and smoking when she's not telling 12-year-old Harper (Bailee Madison) about how Diane used to get her weather girl gigs mostly as a result of her tight dress.
Crystal hasn't had a lead role since 2002's "Analyze That," and his comic sensibilities are at this point just a pile of mothballs. Matching her co-star, Midler mugs with such gracelessness that her comedic timing pales compared to the family's talking house.
These adults mostly mean well, but their foibles could hardly be more painful. Artie focuses on a ridiculous live broadcasting audition for the X Games while Barker pees on a half pipe, and Diane, observing a mess that's been made of cake in the kitchen, exclaims, "We're going to have to call FEMA!" While there should never be federal assistance for dessert mishaps, the movie absolutely deserves to be called a disaster.
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