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Movie Review: Parental Guidance

By Matthew Huntley

January 14, 2013

When he's older, he'll learn that giving her beads is a more effective play.

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But once the grandkids enter the picture, the movie slowly, then more quickly, succumbs to the “dumb family comedy” syndrome. That means we’re forced to endure cheap slapstick, poop and pee jokes, and yes, even a shot to the groin, which is all but standard in comedies that are all out of good ideas. Kids will likely get a kick out of all this, and even though they’re entitled to enjoy mindless movies as much as adults, why couldn’t the grown-up filmmakers have found more inventive ways of being mindless? Everything I just listed is an example of an uninspired, tired cliché. Don’t kids deserve better?

The movie might have bypassed a lot of its problems if it only had two grandkids to deal with instead of three. The eldest, Harper (Bailee Madison), is 12 and just on the verge of adolescence. She plays the violin and is under so much pressure to be perfect and nail an upcoming audition, she’s about to explode. I applauded the way Diane tries to teach her that it’s just as important for her to relax and hang out with friends as it is to practice and focus on her future, a lesson that’s perhaps overlooked in the modern age of parenting when so many moms and dads push their kids relentlessly because they feel competition in the world is so fierce. That may be true, but kids still need to have fun; in fact, we all do.

I also liked how the middle child, Turner (Joshua Rush), isn’t necessarily made out to be the obligatory, wimpy nerd just because he fits the stereotype. It turns out this skinny, stuttering kid is actually a good baseball pitcher and possesses another hidden talent that just requires he find the courage and means to show it off.




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The problem comes from the youngest grandchild, Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf), whose sole function, it seems, is to be a pain in the neck, especially to Artie, whom he calls “Fartie.” The vexatious little rabble rouser blackmails him out of money, draws on his face with a neon marker, runs off on his own at the symphony, and causes trouble with his bodily functions. I lowered my head in shame during a scene that involved Barker urinating on a half-pipe and the professional skateboarder Tony Hawk trying to perform a stunt.

Parental Guidance finally gets to a point where it’s just embarrassing to watch. For some reason, the filmmakers felt they had to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Why Crystal and Midler, not to mention Tomei, signed on for this is beyond me. For the former two, the screenplay seemed to be written especially for them - it’s a well-known fact that Crystal is a huge baseball fan and the movie gives Midler not one, but two opportunities to perform a musical number. It’s a shame the movie wastes their talents and trades in its promising premise for the same garbage the intended audience has likely seen too many times.


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