‘Parental Guidance’ Review
I was worried 2012 would end and there wouldn't be a clear winner for the prize of Worst of the Year. 'Parental Guidance' was worth waiting for. It isn't just the worst film of 2012, it's the worst film of 2011 and probably 2013, too. 'Parental Guidance' is a cinematic hemorrhoid throbbing on the screen, its only purpose in life to cause pain and discomfort.
If you couldn't stop laughing when Billy Crystal decided to say “baseball” in a funny voice at the Oscars, than this may be the movie for you. If you just can't get enough of senior citizens who suddenly become infantilized for no reason (make a sandwich? aah!) then this is the movie for you. If you like to watch horrible children go pee-pee and poo-poo, then this, friends, is the movie for you. If you think it is a blast to see older people flummoxed by (obviously fake) technology, then you will roar with laughter. Do you like shoehorned, overblown emotional beats at the end designed to throttle you into submission so that you think you think you “feel” something? Well have your tickets ready, folks.
It's about 30 seconds into 'Parental Guidance' when you get your first, timely Britney Spears joke. This is followed by a number of fat jokes, some Facebook “poke” gags, then women of a certain age held up for ridicule at a pole dancing class. We're at about the two-minute mark, here, mind you.
Billy Crystal (who once was funny, I swear) is a recently fired minor league baseball announcer. Bette Midler (poor, vibrant Bette Midler – none of this is her fault) is his doting wife. Director Andy Fickman, a true incompetent’s incompetent, has him playing in nonstop monologue mode to no one and has her bouncing off the walls like she's backstage at the Muppet show. Circumstances dictate that they fly to Atlanta and take care of their daughter's (Marisa Tomei) three kids for a week.
The eldest is a somewhat stick in the mud perfectionist. The middle is a saint straight out of 'The Donna Reed Show,' but has a stutter. (He's picked on, but is also a star pitcher on the team, which anyone who's ever had a real childhood knows doesn't make sense.) The youngest is an evil ginger hellion, one of those kids who looks like a fox or a vole or like Scut Farkus from 'A Christmas Story.'
This kid, named Barkley, made me reassess everything I ever thought about the joy of living. This horrible monster, who called Grampa Artie “Farty,” who had an imaginary friend and forced waiters at restaurants to address him, who would go whiz ONTO a skateboarding half-pipe and cause an accident, is the most horrible screen presence I've ever seen. Perhaps you've heard about a documentary called 'Triumph of the Will?' This kid's a close second.
What's worse, though, is that the script isn't even trying. The kid is supposed to be bad? Uh....okay, let's make him run around during the symphony for NO REASON. But these are really with-it writers, they know that modern kids today can't resist an afternoon of playing kick the can in the backyard. (No, not kidding.) Also, listening to the audio of the 1955 “shot heard round the world” play by play. (“You mean like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader?” the kid asks when Grampa about how much the Giants and Dodgers hated each other. I never heard his response because I was too busy throwing up.)
A recurring theme is how the kids today aren't disciplined! Another theme, however, is how the kids today aren't allowed to have fun! I decided it's best not to argue, just to let Grampa rant a little. Because 'Parental Guidance' wore me down. I had no fight left to ask just who nominated the son-in-law's futuristic gizmos “Best New Product of the Year.” Nor did I have it in me, during the big, swelling reconciliation between Crystal and Tomei, to shout out, “no! She is NOT a great Mom! She has three horribly defective children!!” I couldn't even get annoyed at one of my biggest pet peeves, someone misusing the phrase “begs the question.” By the end of 'Parental Guidance' I was slumped over in my seat, defeated, exhausted, miserable and literally moaning.
There is only one place for 'Parental Guidance' to play – and that's in Abu Ghraib prison, in an open ended run.
'Parental Guidance' opens in theaters on December 25.
Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen on Film.com, Badass Digest and StarTrek.com.