Parental Guidance is a comedy that will catch families unaware and pull at their heartstrings. I thought I had prepared myself enough – at least, I knew it would have the entire theater shaking with laughter. What I didn't expect was that this movie is an absolute tear-jerker.
Artie Decker (Billy Crystal) and his wife, Diane Decker (Bette Midler) agree to babysit their three grandkids for a while. However, their infrequent visits to their daughter Alice's (Marisa Tomei) home sets them as "the other grandparents." To make it even harder, the kids' type-A helicopter parents have set countless rules and regulations in the household. When Artie and Diane's old school ways of teaching clash with their grandkids' 21st century problems, the family goes through a series of comedic misadventures and misunderstandings before they finally realize that despite the gap of generations, it's learning to bend that brings a family together.
When you combine two of the greatest comedy legends, what you get is a heartfelt, down-to-earth, riproaring rodeo of fun. Every scene in the movie is filled with laughs for both kids and parents as well as hilarious hijinks that will thrill youngsters, including a sugar-high cake scene. The family's relatable trio consists of Harper (Bailee Madison), an overachiever 12-year old; middle child Turner (Joshua Rush), a good kid with a stutter; and 5-year old Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf) who has an imaginary friend. Artie and Diane try to connect with the kids in a way that will resound with viewers.
Some parents may disagree with Artie and Diane's methods of parenting. Artie frequently bribes 5-year old Barker to be on his best behavior and to keep secrets. Barker never gets serious punishment for his bad behavior. Diane talks to Harper about the good ol' days when she and her friends would have a fine night, drinking. Harper responds, aghast, "You want me to drink?" However, the characters grow and learn their lessons along the way.
This film has something for everyone, whether you're a kid, parent, or grandparent. I felt the awkwardness between Harper and her crush. I exalted in that feeling of triumph with 9-year old Turner when he conquers his obstacles. I knew what it was like to lose a dream, and yet to find that there is more in life that's waiting for the right time to show up. I could see the gap of generations and the formidable task of getting "up-to-date" with the "new school" way of things. I was touched by the mother and daughter relationship between Alice and 12-year old Harper. I understood the fragile father and daughter relationship between Artie and Alice.
Parental Guidance is eccentric, affectionate, and has some of the best lines in the comedy genre. Just remember that this movie is rated PG, and I say this not because of objectional content, but because after parents watch with their kids, they'll want to host a family reunion. Parental Guidance is a must-see gem that will strike audience's hearts – perfect for a fun family outing to the movies.