Parental Guidance is a clash-of-generations comedy written for another generation: Ninety-five percent of the jokes can be boiled down to: This is how we were raised and we turned out all right, while your kids are pu**ies because you’re coddling them. Kids are more gender neutral, parents are more conscious about what they feed their children, and everyone gets a gold star for participating, and all this love and nurturing will invariably create serial-killing monsters of our a new generation of children. Or self-obsessed, cross-dressing brats whose every movement will be recorded and consumed by the YouTube masses.
Parental Guidance stars Billy Crystal and Bette Midler, who — thanks to this generation’s sins — have fewer lines and creases in their faces than their daughter, played by Marisa Tomei. Neither Crystal nor Middler have been relevant in two decades, which is about when it looks like this movie was made. It’s old-school parenting vs. helicopter parenting. There are jokes made at the expense of attachment parenting, and the 1,987th variation of a joke about mothers who breastfeed their children into their toddler years. And as soon as they run out of lame jokes and sugar-high gags, everyone hugs and bonds over the fact that their bloodlines bind them together, whether they like it or not.
Parental Guidance is a movie about grandparents made for Hollywood grandparents, those theoretical doddering old folks who we know and love from the movies that will probably think this movie is “cute.” Real grandparents are just as likely to call it “cute,” but that’s just code for “please take me back to my retirement village where I can go see Django Unchained like the rest of the country without judgement from my insufferable children and my bratty goddamn grandkids.”
Parental Guidance comes from Andy Flickman, the three-celled frat-boy organism responsible for such hits as The Game Plan and She’s the Man, who has perfected the art of soft-focus, brightly-lit imbecile comedy. Like Seth Rogen’s The Guilt Trip, it’s a joyless exercise in pain tolerance, and exactly the kind of film you could summarize or review without having ever seen it. It’s hokum-filled, market-driven bullshit labeled a “family comedy” because that means buying five tickets at the box office instead of just the one.