Reel Matt

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Parental Guidance

Film #177


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.

Year 1, Day 173

BEFORE: What has turned out to be the week of double-features is coming to an end with today’s second film, an advanced screening of the upcoming Parental Guidance. Not having seen the film it’s hard to say how much this fits in with the whole Christmas chain but I’m sure there’s some connection to be made.

AFTER: There is just so much to love about Parental Guidance I don’t even know where to begin. Let me preface my review by saying that during the film, multiple times, I had tears in my eyes and ran out of breath because I was laughing so hard and so often.

If you know me you might ask, “Yeah ok, but you laugh at everything Matt. What makes this film so special?” There are many answers to that question but I think the biggest reason has to be Billy Crystal. I first saw Crystal when he was hosting one of the Academy Awards when I was a child and I remember thinking what a funny guy he was. Well, all these years later, I still think the same thing. Crystal, who plays the grandfather, is hilarious by himself and when interacting with the rest of the cast. The opening scene is Crystal by himself announcing the last game of the season for the Grizzlies, a minor league baseball team. He brings the game of baseball to life and provides a reason to watch other than the game itself - he brings an an energy and a level of excitement that can be missing from baseball when it’s just routine plays. It makes me wish that Crystal got a full-time job as an announcer for ESPN.

And then there’s the rest of the cast. There was great chemistry between everyone in the family and everyone had their moment to shine. I think Crystal stole the show and made me laugh the most but at the same time without the grandmother (Bette Midler), their daughter Alice (Marisa Tomei), her husband Phil (Tom Everett Scott), and their three kids Harper (Bailee Madison), Turner (Joshua Rush), and Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf), the film would have felt incomplete and the jokes would have run dry. The kids did an incredible job and I’m incredibly impressed with how well the actors portrayed each of their quirks: Harper being the stressed-out overachiever, Turner the shy stutterer, and Barker the child with the imaginary friend and who gets what he wants.

But while I would feel satisfied to give Parental Guidance five stars just based on the laughs it delivered alone, the film went above and beyond the call of duty. It also taught a great many lessons about parenting and how to handle situations in life. On the one hand, you have the parenting style of the grandparents which is to give the kids the freedom to make their own choices and to make mistakes. On the other hand you have the modern parents who remove the opportunity for failure and try to make every kid exactly the same planning resolutions for even the smallest of conflicts. For kids today who are subject to this nobody loses mentality I feel extremely sorry and can’t imagine what it is like. Parental Guidance is a great film because it has a message it’s trying to get across, let kids be kids, and it makes you laugh in the process which makes the message stick even more.

Going into this screening I thought the film would be your average, run-of-the-mill family comedy that the kids dragged the parents to because Billy Crystal gets hit in the balls and they make poop jokes. I am very happy to say that this is not an average film by any means. Sure the story can be a bit predictable at times and may be based in typical Hollywood conventions, but there’s also a lot more than that. Parental Guidance is a film that the whole family will love. Young kids, teenagers, parents, grandparents - everyone will find something to love about this film and will come out of the theater with a big smile on their faces. There’s a lot of movies coming out this winter including Les Miserables, Django Unchained, and even some recent releases like The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Lincoln, but you won’t find a better feel-good family film than Parental Guidance.

Parental Guidance opens in theaters on Christmas Day 2012.

RATING: 5 out of 5