Movie Review: “Parental Guidance”- “KIDS TODAY WITH THEIR RAP MUSIC!”

Written by Tommy January 02, 2013

The raven cries “Pray! Pray! Pray for the end of days!”

Death. Life. Life is spent in opposition to death, and yet, without its twin, life would have no meaning. Death is the road we all must tread, yet so many fear to take even a single step. I was once like them, until I saw “Parental Guidance” starring Billy Crystal and Bette Midler. Now, I stride along the path to death with no fear in my heart, no stutter in my step. Death isn’t the end of life, it is an escape from life. An escape from “Parental Guidance.”

Alright, the plot is that Billy Crystal and Bette Midler are grandparents who feel that they aren’t appreciated by their children, so they jump at the chance to babysit their grandchildren in an attempt to insert themselves back into their family’s lives. At the same time, Billy Crystal is trying to land his dream job as an announcer for the San Francisco Giants. There are some other little subplots with the kids but they are just generic family “believe in yourself” stories so I’m going to ignore them.

There is something this movie does well: it is awkward, embarrassing, boring, and painful to watch. In doing so, it manages to perfectly recreate the experience of being around your grandparents. I felt the exact same combination of dread and boredom watching this movie, as when I’m around my real grandparents. Truly life in art.

Why do I even get up in the morning?

Why do I even get up in the morning?

The dawn answers: “Hark! It is already here!”

Then there’s the film’s whole message: today’s generation is too WIMPY. The whole thing is Crystal complaining about kids today and that parents aren’t tough like back in my day and everybody gets a trophy and don’t get me started on technology. Angry birds! Twitter! Am I right folks? What do you mean those aren’t jokes?

They create this ridiculous straw-man of modern parenting, and then attack it for being so ridiculous. I know that the point of satire is to purposely over exaggerate your target to point out the flaws, but man this just goes too far. It’s fine, even necessary, to critique contemporary society but the way this movie does it is just so dumb. Case in point: one scene involves Billy Crystal chasing his grandchild through a crowded music hall. Crystal catches the kid on stage in front of the entire audience and, at his wits’ end, loudly announces that he’s fed up with modern parenting and that kids need to be told “no” etc etc. And then the audience gets up and applauds. It reads like something out of an insane chain-email. All it needed was a note at the end saying “And that kid grew up to be ALBERT EINSTEIN.” The director got tired of trying to argue his point, and just made up puppets to agree with him. Even if I agreed with the argument, it’s presented in such a clumsy, self-indulgent way that it ruins the entire premise.

I need to rethink my entire life.

I need to rethink my entire life.

And from the horizon, “Parental Guidance” emerges, consuming all in its wake.

Performance wise the only thing that stands out is Bette Midler, who plays Billy Crystal’s wife. I mean, her dialogue is terrible, but she’s a lot of fun to watch and brings a lot of energy to it. Marisa Tomei is supposed to be an overbearing, neurotic mother but she takes it way too far and ends up acting like some psychopath. Everyone knows child actors are terrible, so there’s no point even going into that.

While at its heart, “Parental Guidance” tries to be a film for the whole family, anyone who isn’t a bitter old person is going to be left bored and insulted by the end of this. You should still see it though; indeed this film is essential for anyone who hasn’t yet realized that all life is suffering. As for me, I’m going to go stare at a wall until I starve.

My Rating: 2/10

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