All is right in ‘Parental Guidance’

Billy Crystal and Bette Midler bring back laughter and a heart-warming story to the big screen in “Parental Guidance.”

Artie and Diane Decker (Crystal and Midler) are the “other” grandparents to three young children, as shown by the minuscule amount of their pictures on the mantle. But when their daughter, Alice, played by Marisa Tomei, needs them to watch the kids for a few days, Artie and Diane take this opportunity to be the perfect parents they thought they never were; a “second chance,” as Diane calls it.

Alice and husband Phil’s approach to parenting is anything but ordinary. With a “smart” house and an abundance of technology, they require their children to eat a strict diet free of sugar and encourage the little ones to “use their words.” While Diane attempts to keep this approach alive, Artie is making his own rules and thinks this way of parenting is ridiculous. When all his endeavors fail, he realizes that parenting in the 21st century is harder than it appears. Artie and Diane end up causing chaos in the children’s lives, but also seem to connect with each child while learning the ups and downs of grandparenting.

This movie has countless moments of laughter and also brings tears to the eyes of viewers. “Parental Guidance” is written very carefully and each scene of the film has a purpose. There is never a question of why the scene is in the movie, because everything ties together at the end. Even Artie’s failing baseball announcer profession plays a huge part in the children’s lives and is shown in various ways.

One of the most memorable scenes from the movie is when Artie and Diane take the kids outside to play an old-fashioned game of Kick the Can. The children complain that it’s hot and dirty, to which Artie replies, “It’s called outside,” implying that they never play outdoors. They end up bonding and laughing during the game and have a wonderful time playing in the mud. For the first time, the children are able to let loose.

“Parental Guidance” really focuses in on today’s parenting and the constant technological discoveries. The first scene that introduces the family depicts two parents in the morning, struggling to get their children breakfast, while taking business calls on their cell phones. There are so many underlying lessons throughout the movie, and most of them are directed toward today’s parents. It shows parents that sometimes the old-fashioned outdoors are better than allowing children to stay at a computer or play video games all day.

“Parental Guidance” is definitely worth seeing. It is full of comedy and adds a few dramatic scenes to trigger the audience’s emotions. Throw in a moral to the story and cute kids, and it quickly becomes a winner.