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Parental Guidance
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Parents (And Everyone Else) Stongly Cautioned--This Movie Sucks"
1 stars

There is a movie that is currently opening around the country on the art-house circuit called "Amour" that begins by introducing us to a long-married and perfectly happy and content elderly couple and then charts in pitiless and harrowing detail what occurs to them after the wife is laid low by a series of strokes and the husband tries in vain to care for her. As you can imagine, the film is an almost unfathomably bleak experience, especially if you have ever been in the position of watching a loved one slowly and painfully fade away before your eyes, and there are moments that even the hardiest of viewers may find to be too difficult to watch. And yet, if I had to cite the single most depressing cinematic experience of the season, it would run a distant second to the unspeakably ghastly "Parental Guidance," a witless, heartless and brainless disaster that will leave blacks marks on the resumes of everyone who worked on it and on the souls of everyone who bears witness to it. The film is Fox's annual holiday family comedy offering, a slot that has been filled in recent years by the misadventures of Alvin & the Chipmunks and it says a lot about its dismal quality that I would just as soon watch any of those movies again before a repeat viewing of this one, if only because their stories are more plausible and their characters are more likable and fleshed out than the ones on display here.

Billy Crystal and Bette Midler play a long-married couple whose laid-back, old school approach to parenting has caused their only daughter (Marisa Tomei) to go in the opposite direction in raising her own brood in an uber-progressive manner that finds her micromanaging every detail of their lives. She thinks it is a success despite the inescapable fact that her daughter is a tightly wound basket case, her older son is a stuttering wimp and her younger son is such a monster that if he ever got a hold of a copy of "We Need to Talk About Kevin," he might regard it as a training manual instead of as an overwrought and pretentious melodrama. Anyway, through circumstances too contrived to get into here, Tomei and her husband (Tom Everett Scott) need to leave town for a few days and, with no one else to call on, she asks her parents to come to their fully computerized house watch them. Of course, their half-assed under-parenting style clashes with her half-assed over-parenting and wackiness soon ensues, what with the complicated video games, imaginary friends, deep-seated emotional traumas and kiddie baseball games where no one get called out and no score is kept. In a shocking turn of events, the computerized house is driven to the brink of madness and murders them all in their sleep HAL 9000-style. Wait, I was just daydreaming--it actually ends with everyone learning valuable life lessons, especially audience members who will no doubt think twice in the future before ever again going to the movies.

One doesn't watch "Parental Guidance" per se--one gapes at it in the same manner that one might regard the aftermath of the car crash in "The World According to Garp." Not only does absolutely nothing work here, it baffles the mind to think that anyone involved with its production could have deluded themselves into thinking that they could possibly have made something of it. Crystal and Midler are talented individuals who haven't been seen on the screen very often in the last few years but within the first two minutes, you will have had more than enough of them to fill ten lifetimes--he gets to indulge his dual fetishes for increasingly desperate quips that inspire no laughs (when the film hits Blu-Ray, it should feature an alternate audio track that includes actual rim shots after each one) and increasingly maudlin stabs at sentimentality that inspire all the wrong kinds of laughs while she simply mugs throughout to compensate for the fact that she has been given nothing else to do. The screenplay is an embarrassment--a half-assed compendium of slapstick, pathos, sight gags involving most of the major bodily functions, allegedly "topical" comedic references that will appeal only to those who find the mere mention of Facebook to be intrinsically hilarious, dopey epiphanies and ethnic stereotypes so hackneyed that the Asian one is actually embodied by none other than Gedde Watanabe himself. Throw in the contributions by director Andy Fickman, who handles his duties with all the grace and élan of someone whose primary artistic influence, based on the evidence here, appears to have been a "Hello Larry" rerun and--actually, I am going to call it off here because if I continue, I am most likely going to start weeping and if that happens, I fear that I may never stop.

Okay, I will comment on one last thing and that is the presence of Marisa Tomei amidst all the sturm und crap on display. First of all, does she have a painting up in her attic that is aging at a grotesque rate? I realize that to comment on someone's appearance in a review is considered to be bad form in some circles but it cannot be denied that as the years go by, she continues to look more smashing with every passing day. Second, if she does have such a painting in her possession, it clearly has a better agent than she does because this is the kind of screenplay that actors pay such people huge salaries precisely to ensure that stinkburgers like this never get anywhere near them. As the straight woman in a film in which all the jokes around her are fizzling, she has absolutely nothing to do and indeed, there are a few moments when she appears to be literally stricken at the thought of delivering the material that she has been given. I used to hold it as a truism that Tomei was one of those rare performers who could perk up even the weakest of films, even if only for a few minutes, simply on the strength of her undeniable presence and personality. Thanks to "Parental Guidance," that is no longer the case and we are all the poorer for it.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=23938&reviewer=389
originally posted: 12/28/12 17:29:22
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User Comments

10/10/13 Charles Tatum What an unpleasant cast of characters 1 stars
12/28/12 `Alex Conn bad movie 1 stars
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  25-Dec-2012 (PG)
  DVD: 26-Mar-2013


  DVD: 26-Mar-2013

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