By Will Ashton | firstname.lastname@example.org
Parental Guidance | Directed by Andy Fickman | Rated PG
Originally meant to be Eddie Murphy’s return to center stage, Crystal was able to become a last-minute (and very safe) replacement as the host of the 2012 Academy Awards. While the response to his performance was rather muddled, he got the job done, and it was nice to see one of the Oscar’s favorite hosts return to the stage.
But apparently the Dolby Theatre was not supposed to be the last we were to see of Crystal. In light of his newfound popularity, he was also able to get the lead in the new family film Parental Guidance.
Crystal plays Artie, a veteran minor league baseball announcer who deals with the troubles of his recent job termination. After this blow to his 30-plus year career, he is given a chance alongside his wife Diane (Bette Midler) to watch over his grandchildren while his daughter’s husband wins an award.
Despite enjoying the opportunity to see their daughter and grandchildren, Artie and Diane have difficulties adjusting to the kind-words-over-commands style parenting that has been implemented by their daughter. Needless to say, they fail to gain a solid connection to their family. But as time passes, and both are able to get over their own personal shortcomings, they all, once again, learn about the values of family and the joys of being a parent.
Parental Guidance is a hard movie to actively hate. It’s virtuously harmless and seems to have good intentions. But nevertheless, it ultimately is not a very good film. At the end of the day, all it ever truly amounts to is general, run-of-the-mill family-friendly dreck.
However, the film has a silver lining, and it comes in the form of a Crystal. Billy has been, and still remains, a very likeable and charming on-screen presence. Whether its When Harry Met Sally… or Monster’s Inc., he has a way of livening up the screen and making even the most banal of scenes more entertaining and engaging. Here, he is once again able to work some of his magic.
The script doesn’t give him many favors, and the film never truly aspires to be anything more than a way for dysfunctional families to spend time together on Christmas. Yet sitting there in the theater, I couldn’t help at times but be charmed by Crystal’s easygoing charisma and witty comedic style. I look at his heavily touched-up face and am reminded of why I loved his work in the first place many years ago.
It only makes me wish that he were able to push himself into a better-written film, instead of playing it safe in such kid-friendly mediocrity as this. Then again, he serves as a producer on this vehicle, so perhaps this is where he wants to go with his career. Shame.
I appreciate that Hollywood wants to make more movies for the 50 and up crowd with releases such as this and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and I’m sure very young children will find pleasures in the film’s need to feature some of the laziest low-brow bathroom humor I have seen in some time. But ultimately this movie offers nothing that hasn’t been done before. It’s not the worst thing I have seen, but even as I write this, I have trouble keeping this movie in my memory.