Let’s go back in time to 2003. You’re watching Bringing Down The House and it’s the scene where Martin is dressed in baggy tracksuits with his cap on to the side, his arms crossed and he says “YO YO” for about half an hour. Were you laughing then?Would you laugh now? If you answered with “Bringing Down The House? What’s that?” Then stop reading this review for you would never go anywhere near Parental Guidance as you didn’t waste your time in 2003, so why start now? If you answered otherwise, my review is after the jump.
Hard-working parents Alice (Marisa Tomei) and her husband, Phil (Tom Everett-Scott) decide it’s finally time to take that holiday they deserve. The only catch? They have three young children who are simply out of control. With no choice left, Alice decides to call her parents to look after the kids for the next few days. Dad, Artie (Billy Crystal) has just been fired from his job as a baseball commentator [ as he is too old and behind in the times]is reluctant to help, but her mother Diane (Bette Midler) is more than up for it.
Over the next few days with new and delicate forms of parenting clash, with Artie and Diane’s old school forms of child raising quite foreign to their grandchildren. Hilarity ensues when toilet training, common decency and all forms of contentious behaviour go out the window. Can Artie and Diane come around to this new form of parenting? Or are the old ways just simply the best?
Now let’s get this out of the way; No I’m not a parent, but yes I’m willing to suspend disbelief when watching family films. I have a soft spot for a moral, yet toilet humour filled ride that ventures into family dysfunction but also recognizes the importance of family. So please don’t think I’m being unfair in saying, when under the “supervision” of his grandfather, a young boy thinks it’s a good idea to piss on the edge of a large skating ramp and causes Tony Hawk [yes, that famous skater] to slip and break a few bones whilst skating is meant to be a comedic highlight, that I wasn’t laughing. Really? That’s funny? The horror isn’t that of Tony Hawk breaking a few bones, or why he agreed to be in the shot, but why a Hollywood executive read this in a script and said “Yes, perfect! Brilliant! Here’s $20 million, now add more poop jokes and keep receipts”.
This is a family film and yes it’s aimed at young children 90% of the time; but does that give the director, Andy Fickman (You Again…who knew?) and writers, Joe Syracuse and Lisa Addario (Surf’s Up) the excuse to make a jackass of a film? How many times can a kid being constipated, or old people mispronouncing Facebook be funny or original in any way? We’ve seen this film more than a few times before, and it’s never really been funny. Billy Crystal and Bette Midler do their very best as does the rest of the cast, they all really try; but it’s hard to tell how far their efforts go when everything happening on-screen is laboured, tired and unfunny.
Just to clarify, how often is it that when a scene involving bodily fluids or “characters” just being overtly awkward comes about, that the film’s score involving flutes and cello cues makes it funnier? You’ve heard the score more times than you’ve seen daylight, it’s so cliché and familiar, yet film-makers still insist on using it. It’s the mid 90’s all over again and no one is laughing. Parental Guidance is no exception to this, every predictable music cue that we all know and fear is played, and not even on cue! Again, what’s so scary about something different, just once? The cast involved and the audience enduring this all really deserve better. *Insert Piano key cue to signify sad moment in this review* Get it?
Before I waste any more words on Parental Guidance, I did laugh more than once. Yes, it’s true, in moments of sheer boredom a vomit joke and half a groin punch joke made me giggle, but that was mostly due to Billy Crystal’s reaction. I’d tell you not to see this film but it’s too late, you already have…. a decent 20 times before. But you’ll just have to forgive it, as it’s a family film….the poor thing.
A star for every genuine laugh I had (See, I’m generous)
By Chris Elena
Director: Andy Fickman
Writer(s): Joe Syracuse and Lisa Addario
Starring: Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei, Tom Everett-Scott
Runtime: 104 minutes
Release Date(s): Australia & New Zealand: December 26, 2012; USA: December 25, 2012