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Blu-ray Review: Parental Guidance (2012)

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Does every movie have to be brilliant in whatever it is that it attempts to do (make one laugh, be scared, wonder at the world, etc.)?  Is that the goal?  Is it enough, sometimes, for a movie to just sort of wash over you and keep you vaguely warm and make you, if it’s a comedy, laugh a little and be low in its ambition?  If so, then Parental Guidance may be a perfect fit. 

I truly don’t mean to damn the movie with faint praise, but the Andy Fickman directed Billy Crystal-starrer is precisely what you would imagine from the commercials – nothing more, nothing less.  It isn’t a movie though where all the funny bits are in the commercial because there’s nothing so tremendously funny that it’s a clear favorite moment.

The movie finds Crystal’s Artie “Da Voice” Decker, a minor league baseball announcer, unceremoniously fired at the end of the baseball season and flailing for what to do.  His semi-estranged daughter, Alice (Marisa Tomei), lives across the country and desperately needs a babysitter for her three kids for a week so, she calls dear old dad and mom (Diane, played by Bette Midler).

Preposterous?  Absolutely.  Almost as preposterous as the “smart home” that has been designed by Alice’s husband, Phil (Tom Everett Scott) which is being feted and the reason the couple has to go away.  It exists because Crystal and Midler are playing old people who, stereotypically, have trouble with technology and is thus the source of some easy humor.

Do not let any of that bother you, you’re not watching for the story, you’re watching to be moderately amused.  You are probably also only watching if you find Billy Crystal to be a funny actor.  Well, that or you have parents/in-laws who like to tell you that you’re raising your kids wrong… because that’s what the movie is really about.

Crystal’s Artie is an out-of-touch with the kids, baseball loving, stuck in his ways kind of guy who knows how he raised his child and figures that, 30 years later, things really haven’t changed (even if he acknowledges that he didn’t do a good job raising Alice, but that’s a plot hole no one is interested in).  Alice & Phil are the sort of new age parents who no one hopes they are, and Diane lies somewhere in the middle, by which I mean she thinks that both sides are completely wrong and that everything should be done her way.

From that point, everything proceeds exactly as you would expect.  Artie screws up repeatedly because he doesn’t get it.  Diane screws up repeatedly because she doesn’t get it.  Alice & Phil just want a nice weekend away that they’re not going to get.  And, by the end of the movie, everyone has grown and changed and learned some really important lessons about life and family.

The real question comes down to why Gedde Watanabe is in the movie as the crazy owner of a “Pan-Asian” restaurant.  Or, perhaps the question is why the family puts up with this loon of a character.  But that would dare to apply logic to a film that clearly desires no one watching utilize any. 

Parental Guidance is full of easy jokes that neither stretch the actors nor the audience too much, but the entire cast is good-natured and likeable to the point where while you won’t remember any of the jokes, two days later you’ll vaguely recall the movie being better than you had any right to expect.

Both the technical specs and the extras on the Blu-ray are, perhaps not unsurprisingly, exactly the same sort of averageness that permeates the main feature.

The picture sports a decent level of detail, but the grain is inconsistent from shot to shot, which makes it all somewhat awkward.  The colors are realistic and black levels okay.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is front heavy with very little going on in the surrounds other than basic ambience.  You won’t be disappointed by it, but you won’t marvel either.

The bonus features include a commentary track with Crystal and Fickman, a gag reel, deleted scenes, and a made for FX behind the scenes featurette.  This last item is an EPK-style endeavor and without any great insights into the film.  iTunes and Ultraviolet copies are also offered up as well as a DVD.

You could certainly do better than spending 105 minutes on Parental Guidance, but you could do so much worse, too.  It is an entirely inoffensive comedy… well, inoffensive except for its apparent attempt to do nothing but be absolutely mediocre from start to finish (ironically, that’s the one thing it excels at).

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
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