Old fashioned grandparents get called in to babysit grandchildren that are the products of (highly exaggerated) modern parenting. Much to everyone’s dismay, Grandma and Grandpa start butting in and offering advice and getting involved.
Will this lead to child rearing tragedy, with emotionally scarred children and adult relationships damaged beyond repair? Or will everything work out in the end because the old ways had a touch of wisdom to them after all?
C’mon. Do you really need me to tell you?
Artie Decker (Billy Crystal) is a long time baseball announcer for a minor league baseball team. After the end of the season, however, ownership informs him that he’s being let go so that the team can go with someone younger and more modern. His wife, Diane (Bette Midler) barely has time to console him before their estranged daughter (Marisa Tomei) calls asking them to come take care of the grandkids for a few days.
This is the last thing the daughter wants to do, of course. She never felt as if her parents were good parents, and in addition, she and her husband are raising their children in the most progressive manner possible. They barely ever say no, for example. Instead they might say “Why don’t you consider…”. She’s out of alternatives, though, so she asks her parents over to help while she and her husband attend to some out of town business.
Artie and Diane arrive eager to connect with their grandchildren, but what they find are three children with issues of their own. The eldest is a tightly wound violinist pushing herself at her music to the exclusion of everything else in her life. The middle child is a stutterer who’s bullied by the other kids at school, and the youngest is a hyper spaz with an imaginary kangaroo friend. Concerned with what they see, Artie and Diane roll up their sleeves and get involved in their grandkids problems… of course, this doesn’t help matters. Old School collides with New Age as the two grandparents butt heads with teachers, coaches, their daughter and their own legacy of parenting, with everyone’s relationships and mental health on the line.
Ironically, for a movie that has a lot of commentary about how coddling children is ultimately worse for them in the long run (all baseball games here end in a tie, for example), “Parental Guidance” certainly coddles the audience. Things are kept sweet, safe and silly along the way. Which isn’t bad, but it’s not good, either. The movie eschews one of its own points about modern parenting, and that is, without risk, there’s no reward. This is a film that’s all too happy to draw the walk.
Aside from that, the thing that I found a little irritating was the self indulgence that “Parental Guidance” allows its two leads. Crystal is a baseball announcer, which gives him plenty of excuses to talk baseball and drop baseball references. Midler’s character sings and does little USO style numbers here and there. It wouldn’t be the world’s worst thing if you weren’t thinking of these two having them worked in, but I was.
There are a couple of mild chuckles along the way, and if anything, it’s sweet and safe to a fault. But that’s still a fault.