Critical viewers won’t be impressed by this facile, sentimental comedy, but for an easygoing
sort of entertainment, it can’t be all that bad. While the superb talents of the cast members were
spread a bit too thin in this flick, they were able to redeem themselves by getting the emotion
going full force in the final scenes. And sometimes, what we really need is a good dose of
When Phil (Tom Everett Scott) is thrown into the limelight with his smart house invention Rlife,
he asks his wife Alice (Marisa Tomei) to accompany him to an out-of-town work conference.
When Phil’s parents weren’t available to look after their three kids, Harper (Bailee Madison),
Turner (Joshua Rush), and Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf), Phil and Alice had no choice but to
ask Alice's parents Artie (Billy Crystal) and Diane (Bette Midler) to come over.
Because Phil and Alice have raised their three children in the more modern “helicopter
parenting” way, they worry that Artie and Diane’s child rearing method may be way too out
of date. Artie and Diane, however, forced themselves to adopt Alice’s contemporary way of
keeping the children in line but soon find that they have painted themselves in a corner.
The script never pretends to be worldly-wise, presenting its key life lessons right at the get-go
and making sure that each character can derive something out of it. Quite glaringly, however,
Tomei’s Alice is kept on screen too often for comfort, even if this defeats the entire purpose of
the grandparents being called in the first place. Every character is faced with a challenge that
are easy enough to sail through. Fortunately, the entire cast was able to act out the physical
madhouse without going overboard while providing enough fascination to keep the audience’s
attention meter safely in the green.
There’s still a lot of room to make this film more interesting. Crystal, Midler and Tomei are
superb thespians who could deliver more intensity than was required of them in the movie.
Sadly, they hardly lifted a finger here – the thick tense atmosphere is cleared away with a warm
smile, the conflicts aren’t that serious that you have to get anxiety treatment, and the jokes are
tame. There are several high moments in the film though to make up for some inane gags that
border on lackluster.
In times when the movie does work, these are the moments when Crystal and other actors turn
on the charm and shine. It enables them to become funny in their best natural way and behave
like actual human beings. When the stars aren’t shining, the writers make up inept situations like
the silly duet that parody caricature in a pathetic bid to elicit a few perfunctory giggles.
The Bottom Line
The ending will make you feel warm, delighted, and maybe misty-eyed for some, but it will leave
you with a bit of regret that a more powerful script could have brought you more laughs and
given the actors a better and more challenging vehicle to work with.
Parental Guidance may not be the best way to spend one hour and forty minutes of your time,
but it certainly isn’t the worse. If you really want to see other movies this week, then pass up
Parental Guidance and go watch them. If the other releases aren’t your type, and you still want
to make sure that you have a passable good time, then this film comes highly recommended.
~Ryan Rivera is the publisher and founder at CalmClinic.com.