Pauls Valley, Oklahoma — Perhaps one of those actually true clichés one hates the most to hear when it is said is “you’ll look back at this years from now and laugh.” This must be at least somehow the basis of justification for most family friendly comedies, especially the exhausted formula where mom and dad go out of town and the kids give their sitter a ridiculously hellish experience.
The endings don’t vary much either, other than maybe discovering a lack of parenting skills by picking such a lousy caregiver or the kids see that this isn’t so bad and embrace their tormentee, which rarely gives one much reason to see with new actors save a DVD rental at home. This selection doesn’t exactly wow much either, but is at least a good laugh when mixed with two of the best corny comedians of all time. “Parental Guidance” is indeed within the expected formula, though at least rises above the all time blandest of this kind still held by Vin Diesel’s “The Pacifier.”
This time around the parents, Alice (Marisa Tomei) and Phil Simmons (Tom Everett Scott), have to make a last second trip out of town and realize they can’t depend on Phil’s parents to watch the kids. In desperation they call Alice’s parents, Artie (Billy Crystal) and Diane (Bette Midler) Decker, who are as far removed in personality and child rearing technique as can be.
Pretty much to the point that I didn’t like her character, Alice doesn’t trust her parents enough to care for the children and doesn’t leave at first and while things do get chaotic, it only annoys the storyline as we try to feel sorry for Artie and Diane. Yet, there are a few opportunities to enjoy the punch lines and slapstick as the grandparents attempt to survive be it Diane’s loose lifestyle or Artie’s attempt to half babysit while looking for a career change. Eventually things do wrap up in a botched kind of way, but endearing enough if you want just a slightly syrupy ending.
The end product is something mild and inoffensive enough that anyone in the family could enjoy. I’m personally satisfied with one showing, but if you’ve seen all the other big holiday flicks, this one works as a backup if you still want to hit up theaters.
After the credits roll, I’d say “Parental Guidance” deserves a verdict of two out of five punch lines.
Movie viewing experience courtesy of the Royal Twin Theater of Pauls Valley.