January 15, 2013
Family Film Blogging: Parental Guidance
Posted by Christine Hurt

Hello!  I have been away from blogging for about 2 months, since I had rotator cuff surgery in November and went from two typing hands to one.  I am almost all the way back now, typing-wise, so I thought I would catch up on some movie reviews.  I managed to go see a few films during recuperation, but not as many as I would have liked.

One of our favorite movies this month was Parental Guidance.  This movie has not been well-received by critics, but interestingly user reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are much higher (66% v. 19%).  I get it.  There is something that is a little off.  I'm not a filmmaker, so I don't know if this is an editing problem, a directing problem or both, but all the jokes seem a half step too quick or too late.  The two funniest people are cast as grandparents, Billy Crystal and Bette Midler, and Crystal's funny "When Harry Met Sally" asides don't work like they should.  There are also way too many bodily function jokes.  We are treated to two different gags highlighting two different toileting behaviors of the same preschooler.  (One is funny; one is not.) 

But the basic premise rings true:  a frazzled working mom is caught between her parents and her parenting style.  For any parent who has ever had to hear "What are you talking about?  There's nothing wrong with feeding a kid [BLANK]," this movie will seem very true to life.  I love my Dad, but I definitely remember a moment when he was signing me up for soccer and he had to ask me how old I was.  This is the Billy Crystal character.  That's my dad.  One critical review I read said that the story was implausible.  I don't see that at all.  The only nitpick I would have is that the parents are a hodgepodge of every modern parenting style, but those styles aren't always compatible.  So, the mom is a Tiger Mom about her daughter's violin playing, but is very touchy-feely about confronting her younger son's issues up to the point where his neuroses (imaginary friend, food can't touch, won't wear clothes) dominate family life.  For those out there keeping score, yes, our third is just like that, too.

In the movie, Alice (Marisa Tomei) reluctantly asks her parents to watch the kids while she goes on a business trip with her husband, and they reluctantly agree.  The movie would not be that interesting without the mom there to backseat drive her parents, so circumstances keep them all in the house on the front and back end of the trip.  Critics say what they want, but the kids in our house laughed a lot, and I laughed and cried.  It's not a perfect movie, but it was perfect for us on a chilly Saturday afternoon.

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