The great thing about Parental Guidance is that it is a perfect example of how not to make a family comedy. Film students for years to come should be shown this disastrous piece of ‘cinema’ so that nothing this awful graces our screens ever again. Starring Billy Crystal, Bette Midler and Maris Tomei it’s hard to believe that a family comedy could crash and burn as spectacularly as this did.
The story is fairly straightforward – Billy Crystal plays baseball announcer Artie Decker who, in the opening scenes, gets fired from his current job. His vivacious wife Diane is played by Bette Midler who is introduced to us with her legs wrapped around a stripper’s pole in the front room of their house. Their daughter, Alice, played by Marisa Tomei is married to a charming fella called Phil, with three delightfully pleasant children Harper, Turner and Barker. They sound like a bunch of cartoon hounds to me, but whatever, it’s the 21st century, let’s roll with it. Alice and husband Phil decide to go away for a few days and leave the children in the care of Grandpa Artie and Grandma Diane, things go wrong, chaos ensues they all have a big shmultzy hug at the end. It’s a format we are all familiar with and has been done so well in years gone by, so why was this so awful?
I blame the writing of Lisa Adderic and Joe Syacuse mostly, but director Andy Fickman isn’t entirely blame free either. If you have a shit story, you’re going to have a shit film, it’s as simple as that. I can see what they were trying to do and they certainly attempted giving the film layers by having Artie fired from his job, the middle child being a stutterer and the Mom being an over bearing, new age parent. However it all just felt like fuel to the fire, to make that final scene all the more emotional as all their problems fizzle away into the sunset. I couldn’t have cared less about the events that befell this family because it was so unimaginative and poorly written, the only bit of the film where I was actually mildly interested was when Tony Hawk arrived and did some cool shit on his skateboard and got pissed on by some ginger kid. That was the BEST bit of the whole film and even made me let out the most whimpering whimper of a snigger.
One might think “Hey, it can’t be all that bad, what with Billy Crystal and Bette Midler in the lead roles right?” WRONG. Big fat wrong. Bette Midler’s completely one dimensional performance was the result of having to play a one dimensional character. That’s the problem with a bad script, she was given increasingly awful lines, typical ‘fun’ Grandma lines that came out so unnaturally it makes me wonder if Fickman was there to tell her she was doing it wrong. Probably off directing some other awful attempt at comedy (lest we forget the horrors of She’s the Man). Billy Crystal moved me to laughter in a couple of instances, only because he was just being Billy Crystal which is funny, but even he was awful. He was as wooden as they come and barfing in a child’s face certainly didn’t work in his favour. The chemistry between them was false and even their obligatory song and dance number in the kitchen wasn’t enough to convince me they were even friends let alone in love. Speaking of bad chemistry, how about that Marisa Tomei right? She’s pretty hot, funny, successful? Not anymore she’s not. Her performance had me asking myself ‘what is wrong with her?! Is she drunk?!” Wobbling around like the pretentious, middle aged, successful working Mom she was trying to be only made her performance as a matriarch the most unbelievable I’ve ever seen. She’s no Bonnie Hunt, that’s for sure, ultimate movie Mom.
There is a silver lining that being the film was actually quite profitable, considering how badly it was received by critics and the rest of the world. So technically speaking, money wise, it was a success. That doesn’t even come close to redeeming it from failing to entertain poor little people like me, who sit down on a rainy afternoon with a steaming cup of tea ready to lose themselves in a couple of hours of comedy. My expectations were pretty low to start with and I was still massively disappointed.
That’s about all the time I am prepared to spend talking about this gutter trash film. Hey, some people liked it, maybe you’re one of them? I don’t know. I don’t hate many things, but I hate Andy Fickman for bringing this film into my life.
I think you get the picture.
Catch this one on HBO Saturday night, 9/14. Or pick up the DVD/Blu-Ray if you want to own it forever.