It’s been years since Billy Crystal has done anything noteworthy as an actor, but if the public’s reaction to his hosting gig at this year's Oscars was anything to go by, his appeal has not wavered in his absence. Crystal’s new big screen Christmas extravaganza ‘Parental Guidance’ shows that he may look a little older, a little wiser and a little... well, this is Hollywood after all, a little more chemically enhanced - but that sly wit and Billy Crystal charm hasn’t budged an inch.
Crystal plays Artie Decker, a minor league baseball announcer recently let go after the team decides to move with the times. When his daughter Alice (Marisa Tomei) ask’s Artie and Diane (Bette Midler) to watch the three grandkids for the week, Diane jumps at the chance to get out from under their “other grandparents” moniker. This comedy of errors bursts forth when old school parenting meets 21st century type-A coddling and the kids (young and old) get stuck in the middle.
PARENTAL GUIDANCE - TRAILER 2
‘Parental Guidance’ may be formulaic and predictable, but it’s also a lot of fun and has plenty of heart. The Crystal/Midler combination is so seamless and effervescent it’s incredible that no one thought of it years ago - for that, we’ll overlook the fact that they're supposed to have birthed Marisa Tomei (I mean, come on people!). The kids, while ridiculously mismatched as brothers and sister, are terrific with 13-year-old Bailee Madison once again proving her weight in gold as not only a young actor but a bright comedienne.
The comedy and sentimentality work together beautifully as both Crystal and Midler play to their strengths and tag team each other for the laughs and tears. It’s also nice to see some light and humour shed on this most relevant and often volatile subject matter as boundaries, development issues and a child’s pressure to succeed are all tackled with sincerity and sensitivity, as well as a giggle here and there.
This may not be the best movie going around but it’s fun, it’s funny, it’s suitable for all ages and quite frankly, it’s worth it just to remind ourselves that there’s a Billy Crystal in the world.