Parental Guidance is one of those comedies that sticks to that rulebook and so is easier to predict than the outcome of a scrap between a bison and a puppy. There is so much good will in this film that it feels impossible to hate but the thing is that Parental Guidance could have done with more Guidance itself. The film’s heart is in the right place, as are a few moments of heart-warming human connection but the comedy is generic and very off the mark. Down to multiple pee pee/poo poo scenes the toilet humour is like everything else, expected and predictable. The laughs don’t come as often as they should despite the pulling presence of the ever charming Billy Crystal and the energetic Bette Midler.
From the three, initially obnoxious kids (Bailee Madison, Kyle Harrison Breitkopf, Joshua Rush), to the disconnected family and inevitable happy ending, everything is coming from a mile off. Still the film could scrape by were it not for the script’s missing comic spark. For a film that is promoted as exactly what it is though, it can’t really be labelled disappointing because Andy Fickman’s film is just another generic family film. A family film with the best of will but one that is generic all the same.
The real problem is that in this day and age, this affair seems dated, especially as nine years ago Meet The Fockers did more or less all of what is done here, just with a heightened age bracket. In fact Parental Guidance often feels like part of the Meet the Parents franchise, albeit this instalment cuts back on the sex, foreskin gross out and De Niro. Nevertheless it’s all part of the same rulebook. Regardless of its undeniably sweet heart, Parental Guidance is another unambitious family film to add to the pile. It won’t offend anyone and you can, as a family, pick it up and watch it safely without worry of strong language or filth but as soon as the credits roll, you’ll forget half of what you’ve seen.
There are moments of laughter (mostly thanks to Billy Crystal’s comic talent) and other moments of charm, as well as a surprising cameo from Tony Hawks but aside from these few bits, it’s business as usual and unremarkable stuff. Parental Guidance simply cannot compete with the best-animated family films or just saving your money and watching Disney sitcoms or Cartoon Network. This is a rent not buy at best and the fact remains, others like it can be picked up anywhere and far cheaper.