Billy and Bette are past their prime in Parental Guidance
Family comedy: Parental Guidance, starring Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei and Bailee Madison.
Compared to Meet the Parents, this lack-lustre American comedy is very much Avoid the Grandparents.
The past-their-prime pairing of Billy Crystal and Bette Midler play a pair of self-absorbed fuddies-duddies forced to spend a week looking after the grandkids they've never bothered to get to know.
Artie (Crystal) is a small-time sports commentator who has just lost his job, and is coming to terms with the fact he will never get a call-up to the big league.
His wife, Diane (Midler), used to be a TV weathergirl for a short spell in the early 1970s. Who knows what she's been up to since then?
The couple's only child, Alice (Marisa Tomei), has overcompensated for her own neglected childhood by becoming the ultimate control-freaky parent.
Alice's three children are coddled cot-cases whose every whim has been indulged to the hilt, and then some.
They are not so likeable on first impressions, and by the end of the movie, you will be fighting the urge to notify the authorities about these brats.
As a credited producer on this project, Crystal is given far too much leeway to dominate proceedings with his very tired comedy stylings.
Most of his cranky asides are just tolerable enough not to offend, nor to amuse. However, there is a bracket of abrasive scenes - one involving Crystal chucking up his lunch right in the face of a misbehaving moppet - that should have never have made the final cut.
To be absolutely frank, Parental Guidance is one of those movies where absolutely everyone knows both how it will finish, and how it will get there. No crime in that.
However, those that penned the lethargic screenplay should be hauled before a judge to explain themselves.
A mountain of mawkish filler about baseball. Some lame, generally misdirected potshots at modern child-rearing techniques. An endless procession of whiny, with-it kids with all the charm of unoiled, squeaking doors.
Review by Leigh Paatsch. Parental Guidance (PG) is out now.
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Bad form: Billy Crystal and Bette Midler in Parental Guidance.