Parental Guidance (2012)

Director: Andy Fickman
Cast: Billy CrystalBette Midler, Marisa Tomei
Plot: Artie and Diane agree to look after their three grandkids when their type-A helicopter parents need to leave town for work. Problems arise when the kids' 21st-century behaviors collide with Artie and Diane's old-school methods.

Genre: Comedy
Awards: -
Runtime: 104min
Rating: PG for some rude humor


**Guest reviewed by Yue Jie (Film, Sound, & Video @ Ngee Ann Polytechnic)

The first thing to note about this film is its interesting title that takes cue from the all too familiar Parental Guidance (PG) classification category, and don’t fret, it is indeed suitable for its target audience. Directed by Andy Fickman of the comedy You Again (2010), Parental Guidance shows a typical American family from grandparents to grandchildren and how the folks need to adapt and learn new ways of the 21st century so as to be able to care for the young ones.

The issue of parenting, as it is in the title, is therefore the main point of the film. With the many characters unique to their own traits, it’s understandably hard to keep up with a complicated plot. So we see how Fickman guides us along a topic usually unspoken of while he plays the comedic chops to his advantage.

Comedians Billy Crystal and Bette Midler star as grandparents Artie Decker and Diane Decker respectively, and we see how they struggle to adopt new parenting techniques after their daughter Alice Decker Simmons requests for them to babysit the kids while she accompanies husband Phil Simmons on vacation.

Tom Everett Scott plays son-in-law Phil in his second collaboration with Fickman after Race to Witch Mountain in 2009. Marisa Tomei (In the Bedroom, The Wrestler) plays daughter Alice and the mother of three that tries to inculcate modern youth lingo into Artie so that he can better communicate with his grandchildren.

Artie is a Major League Baseball broadcaster that gets fired after his last gig for being unable to keep in with the times and stay up to date with social media. A quick exchange of words in the first scene about popular social networks is bound to evoke laughter, and this is the kind of straightforward humour that viewers can come to expect throughout the film.

Diane, on the other hand, is the understanding and open-minded grandmother who allows her granddaughter to attend a party she is invited to by a boy that takes a liking to her, much to her joy and Alice’s chagrin as she has a violin audition the very next day that she has been practicing for. At just 13, Bailee Madison (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, 2011) plays granddaughter Harper Decker Simmons, the most mature of her siblings and about to enter adolescence.

While Artie does make attempts to learn new methods of parenting, he also tries his ‘traditional’ ways, much to the hilarity of viewers as situations turn awry and uncontrollable, leaving Artie misunderstood for his good intentions. While he learns, he also interests Turner Decker Simmons (Joshua Rush) and lets him listen to a recorded broadcaster message from the 1950s on his iPod, a scene that serves as a look back into the past for Artie and a moment in history for Turner.

Along the way, Artie finds himself in awkward situations due to ignorance in today’s society and from repeating his old mistakes, one that gets him in the spotlight in news that reaches out even to the parents that are overseas. Also, in two scenes, an exchange of words in Russian from Diane to Harper’s violin teacher that isn’t subtitled can be roughly interpreted by Diane’s actions, to the roaring laughter of audiences.

Parental Guidance is a comedy with a pinch of poignancy that relates to people of all ages, whether you’re a grandparent grappling with changes in society or the grandchild that doesn’t understand why your folks don’t get you. The importance of family values is thus highlighted and greatly emphasized on. Just because old habits die hard does not mean that our folks are totally irrelevant, they just need time to adjust.

To the Americans, Parental Guidance may depict a highly stereotypical situation and hence the very average rating seen on Internet Movie Database (IMDb). From an Asian perspective however, we are able to relate more to this and understand better the issues brought about by a generation gap. Parental Guidance is indeed a family-friendly comedy for all to enjoy.

Rating: 3.5 stars

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