PARENTAL GUIDANCE (Andy Fickman). 97 minutes. Opens Tuesday (December 25). See listings. Rating: N
While most critics are busy tallying up their annual lists of favourite movies, we have a late entry for the year's worst. Parental Guidance should come with an MPAA warning for being offensively bad.
Billy Crystal stars as Artie, a minor league sports announcer recently laid off for not keeping up with the times. (Apparently you need to know the ins and outs of Twitter to call the plays.) Artie and his wife (Bette Midler) are called in an emergency to babysit grandchildren they hardly know and must adapt to their high-strung daughter Alice's (Marisa Tomei) New Age parenting techniques.
The clash between Artie's old-school sentiments and Alice's next-generation lifestyle is meant to drum up laughs, but the filmmakers, as out-of-touch as Artie, fumble the promising premise. It's not just the crotch-shots, toilet humour, contrived sentiment and weathered comedians that test your patience. The film's shoddiness trickles down to even basic details, like its depiction of 21st-century family values, which Alice and her New Age family represent in as cartoonish a manner as possible.
These contradictory parents preach about non-competitiveness (their son plays in a pee-wee league that doesn't keep score), yet pressure their daughter to do nothing but practise the violin (under the guidance of a KGB-like instructor) for a major audition. Crystal's grandpa then gets to promote aggressive competition as healthy, while Midler's grandma tells everyone to chillax. Alice and her environmentalist family keep their electric car charging in the garage and drive around in a gas-guzzling Denali. You don't need to be as Artie's age to be perplexed by these people.
These are just a few examples of the movie's laziness. Parental Guidance feels like it's been thoughtlessly written in a boardroom strictly as a vehicle for Crystal to perform the same past-due routines he does at the Oscars, musical numbers and all.