Parental Guidance (2012)

Parental GuidanceParental Guidance

Release Date: December 25, 2012

Director: Andy Fickman

Stars: Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei

Runtime: 105 min

Tagline: Here come the grandparents. There go the rules.

Artie (Billy Crystal) has just finished up a season as being “De Voice” of the local minor league baseball team, the Grizzlies. Much to his dismay, he gets fired because the team wants someone younger and more modern, preferrably someone who has made social updates on Twitter and Facebook. Soon, he and his wife, Diane (Bette Midler), get asked to look after their three grand kids because their parents need to go out of town. The mother, Alice (Marisa Tomei), stays home for a little longer than expected, and Artie and Diane’s old-school parenting skills collide with Alice and Phil’s 21st-century parenting skills. Chaos soon ensues, but Artie might finally get to live his dream of being the voice for the San Francisco Giants (and keep using his signature sign-off of “Lights out, Alice”). As this film teaches, it’s all about meeting halfway and learning to bend that binds a family together.

Parental Guidance may be a film with good intentions, but the target audience is unclear. Are the children supposed to enjoy it more, or are the adults? It passes itself as a family comedy, but the humour is hard to find in a few areas. A film that resorts to hitting a character in the balls with a baseball bat, and then have that said character throw up on the young child, isn’t exactly funny, it’s simply immature. Still, there are a few yuks to be had, and it’s at least a little funnier than The Guilt Trip.

The family comedy’s intention is to express that grandparents and parents must come to an understanding of how to deal with their children. This is also a film about second chances, because Artie and Diane did a poor job with their children, so they want to do it better with the grandchildren. However, this is going to appear difficult, as the grandkids don’t know them well, they think of them as the “other” grandparents. This family comedy is simply redundant, because there are other, better comedies to express afamily connectedness round the holidays (like This is 40). It also redundant because themes it tries to explore, like the parent feeling abandoned by their children or vice-versa, have already been explored in features like This is 40 and Trouble with the Curve. There are laughs, but a lot of the feature is tedious. There is one scene where a character has a sort of self-realization moment, which is supposed to be sentimental, but it was so tedious that it made two minutes feel like seven. The performer is loud and boring, and that isn’t a good combination for any working actor. There has never been a time during a film where I would have just loved a baseball bat to my grapes instead of watching the scene.

The three kids are silly, but the charismatic Bailee Madison makes the best of her character. Harper, the character Madison portrays, is a tightly-wound violinist trying to get into a competitive musical arts school. She just wants to live a little, with her mother pushing her the most. Turner (Joshua Rush) is the stuttering middle child who gets bullied at school. Finally, we have Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf), a kid who wants to be bribed by Farty (his nickname for Artie) and has an imaginary Kangaroo friend, Carl.

Artie and Diane try to bring in their old-school parenting skills, but the writer should have expressed that conflicts can’t be solved with cake, ten dollars and letting the kid watch some torture porn horror. Any conflict that comes also gets resolved in about seven minutes or less. The writer makes most characters have what Hollywood calls self-realization/overcoming obstacles moments, and most of them are sweet and are nice attempts as being sentimental. Others are just tedious and irritating. The story is also nothing you’ve seen 102 times before, and about four times already this year. A main problem with this is performers with no charm. Billy Crystal is the most charming and the funniest. Bette Midler is a one-joke woman, and just because she gestures and does facial a lot doesn’t mean she’s a good actress, or even fun to watch. Admittedly, Crystal and Midler do have a decent-enough chemistry. Marisa Tomei and Bailee Madison (who really is a great young actress) are the only other performers that are easy to watch. Tomei and her husband, played by Tom Everett Scott, have one really bad inside joke they share. Tomei may just have had better chemistry with the young Barker’s imaginary kangaroo friend, Carl. It doesn’t help the film that Barker and Turner aren’t charismatic. They’re cute, sure, but they’re loud and annoying. They’re miniature, manipulative demons, and their presence gets irritating quickly. Can’t you tell how bratty they are from the poster?

In a nutshell: There are quite a few yuks in Parental Guidance, mostly given to you by Billy Crystal, and a Chinese restaurant owner, Mr. Cheng (Gedde Watanabe), but there should be more than one funny character and another supporting funny character with three minutes of screen time. For all the sweet or good moments, there’s a failed sentimental moment. It’s a sub-par family comedy with good intentions that doesn’t work well, and it is merely bearable because of the great Billy Crystal. It might bring in some real-life issues, but it’s still a predictable, sometimes tedious, and familiar ride to the old ball game. This is De Voice of Daniel’s Film Reviews saying: Lights out, Alice.

50/100

Celebrity Birthdays: October 15 – 21

Sorry for the delay, I got my days mixed up.

Bailee Madison (October 15)

Happy 13th birthday to Bailee Madison. She is a great young actress. At only the age of 13, she has worked with Robert Patrick (in Bridge to Terabithia); Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire (all in Brothers); Hilary Swank (in Conviction); Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston (in Just Go With It); and Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, and the writer Guillermo Del Toro (in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark).

Jon Favreau (October 19)

Happy 46th birthday to Jon Favreau, director of the Iron Man films and the (apparently) disappointing Cowboys & Aliens. I’m not a really big fan, but his films seem good for those super hero fans.

Viggo Mortensen (October 20)

Happy 54th birthday to Viggo Mortensen. He is best known for performing in A History of Violence, and playing Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings series. He frequently works with director David Cronenberg, their collaborations include: A History of Violence, Eastern Promises and A Dangerous Method.

Danny Boyle (October 20)

Happy 56th birthday to Danny Boyle, director of Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours, 28 Days Later… and Trainspotting. He looks a bit like a tall version of Golum from the LOTR films, doesn’t he? (I say jokingly.) I liked Slumdog Millionaire, but not really 127 Hours.

Other Birthdays: Oct. 15, Larry Miller (59). Oct. 16, Tim Robbins (54); Brea Grant (31). Oct. 18, Zac Efron (25); Freida Pinto (28). Oct. 21, Carrie Fisher (56).

Who is your favourite actor/actress on this list?

My reviews of films they have starred in: 

Bailee Madison: Bridge to Terabithia (2007)

Bridge to Terabithia (2007) Review

Bridge to Terabithia

Release Date: February 16, 2007

Director: Gabor Csupo

Stars: Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Zooey Deschanel

Runtime: 96 min

Tagline: Discover a place that will never leave you, and a friendship that will change you forever.

Jess Aarons (Hutcherson) is a boy who feels out of place, but has a  great artsy talent. He has been training for to become the fastest runner in school, only to be beaten by Leslie Burke (Robb), the new girl in school. Soon, they find common interests and become friends. They create an imaginative kingdom of Terabithia out in the woods, that they escape to every day after school. This newfound friendship teaches him lessons that will stay with him for life.

Bridge to Terabithia is a poignant examination of a great friendship and great imagination. It is fairly slowly paced and can be boring, but it has a few great scenes.

The film is greatly thematic, including ones of imagination, denial,  acceptance and remorse. Apparently the book written by Katherine Paterson, which this was adapted from, was aimed more at a teen to young adult audience, while this is much more for children. It really is a film that can be enjoyed by kids with wicked imaginations.

Some scenes are boring and the plot is just a little silly. The visuals aren’t anything special, when they could have been great. That makes some of this feel like a real wasted opportunity. The beginning and middle act weren’t great, but the third act was emotionally poignant and pretty impressive.

It’s wickedly overacted, but it’s necessary for a film like this. Each actor’s performance is pretty great, because each one does an impressive job in making the viewer feel exactly how the character is. In this way, we can easily immerse ourselves into that often poignant atmosphere and sometimes really relate to some of the characters.

The character of Leslie Burke is nice, because she is just so imaginative and naturally real. She is someone who isn’t afraid to be herself. I also like the character of Jess and Leslie’s parents; and I liked the character of May Belle, Jess’ little sister, because she just really wanted to be included. I didn’t care for a lot of the others, though.

Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Zooey Deschanel, Robert Patrick, Bailee Madison and Lauren Clinton.

The plot can get a little ridiculous and boring, but it’s great for kids with imaginations. It is also impressive that it’s so poignant for children’s cinema. It just felt like a wasted opportunity because I didn’t like the visuals or anything.

64/100