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Parental Guidance (2012)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/26/2013

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/27/2013

"You don't know what you've got until it's gone" is not only a rockin' song from Cinderella, but also an old adage which actually holds some truth. You won't truly appreciate how special something is until it's been missing from your life for a significant amount of time. Or if you experience a certain thing after a long while, you'll remember just how important it was. Due to the amount of video options available to us today, this doesn't happen that much with movies. If you feel like you haven't seen something from a certain actor or director recently, you can just watch one of their old movies. However, occasionally artist will choose to spend years out of the spotlight and their return can either be disappointing or it can remind you of why you loved them in the first place. We get the latter with Billy Crystal's appearance in Parental Guidance.

Crystal stars in Parental Guidance as Artie Decker, the announcer for the Fresno Grizzlies minor league baseball team. Artie loves baseball and his job, so he's crushed when he's let go, as the team wants a more modern approach. Artie's wife, Diane (Bette Midler), is supportive, but Artie fears that this is the end of his career. Meanwhile, Alice (Marisa Tomei), Artie and Diane's daughter, lives in Atlanta with her husband, Phil (Tom Everett Scott) and their three children, Harper (Bailee Madison), Turner (Joshua Rush), and Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf). Phil is up for a presitigious award for the fully automated house he invented and he wants Alice to attend the ceremony with him. With no one else to turn to, Alice calls her parents and asks if they will babysit. Against Artie's wishes, Diane accepts. The couple arrives in Atlanta and finds that they don't understand Alice and Phil's parenting style at all, as it's both smothering and passive. Alice actually considers not going on the trip, as she doesn't trust her parents with the kids. But, Artie and Diane want to be accepted as doting grandparents, so they dive in head-first. They will quickly learn that there is no perfect way to parent (or grandparent), but families find a way to get through.

As with many things in life, a movie is the sum of its parts and they must work together in order to produce a quality product. However, not every component of Parental Guidance is of the highest quality. Director Andy Fickman has made a slew of mediocre to just-plain-bad movies like The Game Plan, Race to Witch Mountain, and You Again. He continues to show little style in his work and there are several scenes in Parental Guidance where the pacing is slightly off and one can't help but think that a more competent director would have known where to trim things up a bit. The script by Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse, who also wrote the criminally underrated Surf's Up, has its ups and downs. On the plus side, the movie makes some excellent points about how many people approach parenting today and the way in which adults wants to be friends with their kids instead of adults. This is addressed head-on in some scenes, and in a more round-about way in others, but the message certainly comes across. (Talladega Nights did this better. Of course, Talladega Nights did everything better.) On the minus side, the story is rather pedestrian and many of the situations are predictable and don't have a truly realistic feel to them.

So, what does work in Parental Guidance? That's easy -- Billy Crystal. It seems crazy to think that Crystal hasn't had a starring role in a live-action feature film since 2002 Analyze That. However, he's not the least bit rusty and he comes out swinging in the very first scene and doesn't let up from there. That first scene literally had me in tears laughing, and I realized how great it was to have Crystal back. He still has that unbeatable knack for playing a character who is downtrodden and yet insults everyone in the room without batting an eye. No one else can play snarky yet nice like Crystal and he rarely misses a beat here. He does what he can with the material which he's given and, at times, it feels as if he's in a different movie from all of the other actors. The fact that Crystal is instantly funny makes Artie likeable, which is very important, as he makes some bad decisions along the way. The rest of the cast simply tries to keep up with Crystal. Bette Midler doesn't know how to deliver a line in a subtle way and there are too many instances where she sounds as if she's in a stage play and not in a movie. Marisa Tomei isn't bad playing the harried mother, but her character isn't always sympathetic. The child actors do a good job here and they are only truly annoying when the script calls for it.

As a film critic, I'm supposed to hate movies like Parental Guidance, as they represent something which caters to the lowest common denominator and keeps more artistic films from reaching movie screens. But, it's difficult to argue with a movie which is this funny. Crystal is constantly amusing throughout, and many of his jokes give the movie a subversive feel. And, there's no denying that there are some touching moments here. The best news about Parental Guidance is that it's pretty family-friendly and there was only one "I hope the kids don't understand that moment." Sure, it's not Oscar-worthy material, but Parental Guidance is a fun movie which the entire family was quoting the next day. Shouldn't that count for something?

Parental Guidance does us a favor by not letting the house be the star on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth is fairly good, as the actors are clearly separate from the backgrounds. The level of detail is very good. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are balanced and show good separation. We get some surround sound effects from crowd scenes. The scene at the symphony provides a good blend of front and rear channel action. The track isn't free from bass, but I didn't note any great subwoofer effects.

The Parental Guidance has a surprisingly small amount of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Andy Fickman and Billy Crystal. The Disc contains fifteen DELETED SCENES which run about 13 minutes. There are a few more funny Billy Crystal moments here, but most of these scenes are simply longer versions of scenes from the film. We get a 13-minute GAG REEL which features plenty of Crystal goofing around. "FXM Productions Presents In Character with Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, and Marisa Tomei" (5 minutes) offers lots of clips from the movie and a few minutes of the trio talking together. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.