Friday, April 5, 2013

Parental Guidance Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Billy Crystal, Bette Midler and Marisa Tomei prove that laughter is relative in this comedy that’s fun for the whole family!  Old-school grandparents Artie (Crystal) and Diane (Midler) get more than they bargained for when they get stuck babysitting their type-A daughter’s (Tomei) overprotected kids.  But things go from hectic to hysterical when Artie realizes the kids are running the house with their newfangled technology.  By playing by his own rules, which include sugary snacks, old fashioned games and tough love, Artie manages to outsmart the kids and achieve the impossible- bring the family closer together.

Film (3 out of 5 stars)

Billy Crystal stars as Artie, an announcer for the Fresno Grizzlies who is finishing up his season. Artie has dreams of one day announcing for the San Francisco Giants. He has a young mentor that has learned a lot from him and is incredibly appreciative. He even gives Artie an ipod containing all the great calls Artie introduced him to. A meeting with his boss makes a great day turn sour as his boss explains Artie is being let go. The team wants to go in a young, fresh direction and Artie doesn't have an app, know how to tweet or even play Angry Birds. As Artie reluctantly tells his wife Diane (Bette Midler) that he was fired, she recommends retirement. but Artie isn't quite ready to give up on his dream of announcing for the Giants.

While Artie is very old school, his daughter Alice is the opposite. She lives in a smart home that her husband Phil (Tom Everett Scott) has created. The R-Life home makes their breakfast, monitors every day life, and announces guests and family members who enter. Alice is clearly the driving factor behind the overachieving lifestyle the family enjoys/endures. Oldest daughter Harper is 12 going on 50. She is consumed by violin practice and an upcoming audition. Younger brother Turner is a shy, awkward kid who stutters. The baby of the family, Barker, spends much of his time with an imaginary friend who happens to be a kangaroo.

When Phil is nominated for an award for the R-Life he wants to take Alice with him. Normally they would ask Phil’s parents to sit for the kids, but they happen to be on a cruise. The only choice and last resort is to call Alice’s parents. Her mom, Diane jumps at the chance to see their grand-kids  When they arrive, their gift of supersoakers is frowned on by Alice. Artie instructs the kids to call him by his name (instead of grandpa) which backfires as they quickly decide to call him Fartie instead.

Alice goes over the rules with her parents and explains that she has a much different parenting style than the way she was raised. They don’t tell the children no, instead they are instructed to consider the consequences. They are very concerned with self esteem and listening to the children, not noticing that none of their children are happy or well adjusted. As the grandparents learn the ropes, Alice refuses to leave. She sends Phil without her promising she’ll follow in hours, and then days.

In a very predictable manner, the grandparents bond with the children while also threatening an overbearing music teacher, insult a speech therapist who doesn't make the children speak, and singing songs to help the youngest boy use a public restroom.  Of course, the grandparents mess up repeatedly, such as giving the kids cake when they aren't allowed any sugar, and letting them watch the horror movie Saw. Despite their mistakes, their methods do eventually pay off when the kids even are willing to play a game of kick the can.    Over time, the kids are learning to loosen up and learning to love their grandparents.

Alice does eventually leave and gets some quality time with Phil, while Artie takes Barker on an audition to become an X games announcer. Although Artie knows nothing about the topic, he starts doing well and let’s Barker slip away and into danger during his audition. At this point, everyone is upset and all parties are angry at Artie – even Diane. She had wanted to make a lasting good impression and didn't want to be labeled the “other” grandparents. While trying to redeem himself, Artie takes a bat to the groin and pukes on a little-leaguer. In the end, as you might have guessed, the helicopter (hovering) parents learn that their kids are too uptight and Artie and Diane’s less conventional methods have made the kids happy.

Overall Parental Guidance is exactly what I expected as it offers some small chuckles and some very contrived sentiment. They should flash “grab Kleenex now” when the young stutterer gets up in front of a crowd to reenact the shot heard round the world – his grandfather’s reason for being an announcer. The main problem is that the comedy isn't as funny as you'd hoped it would be with Billy Crystal and Bette Midler involved. The movie is predictable enough that you can see the jokes coming before the actors even speak. From the very beginning, with Artie’s rant about tweeting and hashtags, you know exactly what to expect for the rest of the film. I liked the film but not as much as wanted to.

Video (3 out of 5 stars)

Parental Guidance’s 1080p AVC encoded transfer fairs pretty well throughout the film. It’s significantly grainy, in darker and brighter scenes. There were slight issues with the skateboarding scenes but nothing that bothered me too much. It’s a fairly standard family comedy and the video presentation is sufficient for a film of this type. 

Audio (4 out of 5 stars)

I was slightly more impressed with the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation. It didn't have to raise to the level of intense gunfire or special effects and explosions but the dialogue is clear and consistent throughout, which is most important in a comedy like this.

Special Features (3 out of 5 stars)

The special features are adequate for the film. This wasn't the kind of film where I immediately wanted to watch all of the extras just because I wanted to see more. 

The Blu-ray contains the following features:

  • Audio Commentary – Director Andy Fickman and star Billy Crystal discuss making the film and have a lot of laughs.
  • Deleted Scenes – 15 deleted or extended scenes are available with optional commentary by the Director.
  • Gag Reel – Usually my favorite kind of special feature, this gag reel lasts almost thirteen minutes. It stopped being funny to me, a few minutes into it.
  • FXM Production Presents – In Character with Billy Crystal, Bette Midler and Marisa Tomei. The primary actors discuss getting into character for Parental Guidance.
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Sneak Peak

Final Thoughts (3 out o f 5 stars)

Parental Guidance is worth watching, but it’s not as funny as other Billy Crystal flicks like City Slickers or The Princess Bride. The acting isn't bad, it’s just too predictable from the very beginning. It’s a very average movie from a cast that I expect above average from.  On the plus side, it's a movie that the whole family can watch together.

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