EDITOR'S NOTE:"Parental Guidance" opens Christmas Day at Carmike 12 in Cartersville.
You'll be forgiven if you think "Parental Guidance," a comedy starring Billy Crystal, Bette Midler and Marisa Tomei seems to follow a standard formula of old vs. new. The producers of the film aren't apologetic about it. They even promote the movie as Old School vs. New School in parenting.
As the movie starts, Crystal's character, Artie Decker, a baseball announcer, is having career problems. The last thing Artie wants to do is spend time with his grandchildren. But his wife, Diane, portrayed by Bette Midler, wants a chance to no longer be her grandkids' second favorite grandmother.
When the grandparents arrive in the Atlanta suburb that is home to their grandchildren, the differences in parental philosophies becomes very clear. They have arrived in a place where children never hear the word "no," but instead are taught to consider the consequences of their actions, as their daughter, Alice Simmons, played by Tomei, instructs them in the care of their grandchildren. Games of baseball don't follow the old rules of "three strikes and you're out." Instead, everybody gets to hit, everybody gets on base and all games end in a tie. Even their daughter's leaves the technophobe grandparents like fish out of water.
The movie progresses as Artie and Diane ignore these "new school" rules and follow their "old school ways," letting their grandchildren's lives get out of control. But, like most family-friendly movies, by the end of the babysitting gig the grandchildren have learned valuable lessons – as have their parents and grandparents.
The movie mostly redeems itself after following pretty standard plot points. Part of what makes this movie work is the portrayal of the Simmons' children by Bailey Madison, Joshua Rush and Kyle Harrison Breitkopf. They seem like real kids and not some screenwriter's odd notion of children, or mere caricatures.
I would recommend this movie to families looking for a film everyone can enjoy without worrying about bad language or violence (except for that baseball bat scene shown in all the trailers). The long winter break from school makes this a great break from everyone feeling cooped up at home, especially on foggy, rainy days like Christmas Day.