By Mark Saldana 

Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)

There’s not a whole lot positive to be said about this family-bait movie that could have been easily cast with lesser known actors and broadcast on ABC Family.  Nothing about this holiday release earns it a place at the multiplex.  The performances are mostly bland, the humor flat as an old soda, and the writing has little funny or entertaining to offer.  I will admit that the movie does have two hilarious scenes which force my typing fingers to grumpily and reluctantly give Parental Guidance a two star rating, but I refuse to give this otherwise frustrating attempt at comedy any more leeway

The film stars Billy Crystal and Bette Midler as Artie and Diane Decker, a married couple called on by their daughter Alice (Marissa Tomei) to help take care of her children while she and her husband Phil (Tom Everett Scott) take a trip.  Artie and Diane, who have a bit of an estranged relationship with their daughter hardly know their grandchildren Harper (Bailee Madison), Turner (Joshua Rush), and Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf).  Each of the children has little quirks and issues which their parents usually coddle and deal with quite gingerly.  When Artie and Diane, who are more old school about their child rearing, assume responsibility for the kids, things go a bit haywire.

Directed by Andy Fickman and written by Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse, Parental Guidance has a predictable story line and an absolutely uninteresting script.  The film starts out really slowly and the humor, prior to the moment when the Deckers start caring for their grandchildren, so ridiculously flatlines. I really wanted to leave around this point. When the grandparents take over, the film has a mix of mostly stupid, unfunny humor, moderately amusing scenarios, and two rollicking, side-splitting moments. Overall the whole experience played out better than I expected, but still not good enough to earn a high rating from me.  It actually made me a bit sad that Crystal and Midler had to struggle with such lousy comic material.

I really do think quite highly of their talents and wish they had passed on this movie.  They do their best, but it was a bit painful to watch.  As for Marissa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott, I also wish they had turned down this film.  Not only is their material worse, but their performances are terrible. It seemed like they knew this was an easy paycheck and they didn’t even try.  At least in the movie Playing for Keeps, which had horrendous writing, the cast at least tries their best to pull it off. Tomei and Scott do not.

I know people will look for more family-friendly movies during the holidays, but this is one I cannot recommend to see in the theater.  I would just wait until it airs on ABC Family because I’m sure it will in the not so distant future. Don’t spend your money on this one.

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