CHICAGO – “Drinking Buddies” director Joe Swanberg’s latest release of the same star wattage is “Happy Christmas,” an even lower-fi story than the Olivia Wilde beer comedy, steered even more by the casting that it was able to assemble. However, with this movie Swanberg doesn’t so much worry about having a story that could be confused with a more mainstream romantic comedy if it were to have a bigger budget.
Film Review: No Scrooge in Billy Crystal with ‘Parental Guidance’
CHICAGO – As the bells toll this Christmas morn, the critical knots are untied and the new comedy, “Parental Guidance,” is deemed to be not bad – even though the marketing might have indicated otherwise. Billy Crystal and Bette Midler make merry and bright as two grandparents taking care of modern kids.
The are three key elements that make the film work – the energy of Crystal and Midler (they never flag), the supporting roles – especially of Marisa Tomei – and it’s a family oriented picture for the holidays that isn’t gag worthy. There is nothing notable about the story, although Crystal is cast as a baseball announcer, which most likely made his New York Yankee-loving soul rise once again from the show business grave. Like a marathon runner who knows his best days are behind him, Crystal does know how to pace this comedy, and save it from the usual pile of coal filmgoers receive with anything rated below “PG-13.”
Artie Decker (Billy Crystal) is a minor league baseball announcer, established in a small California community. As an old school pro, he has become used up as the owners decide to go into a different (younger) direction, and fire him. This distresses the baseball-loving Artie, but his loving wife Diane (Bette Midler) is right by his side as they ponder the next phase of their lives.
Cue the phone call – it is Artie and Diane’s daughter Alice (Marisa Tomei), who needs her parents to come and look after their grandchildren (Bailee Madison, Joshua Rush, Kyle Breitkopf) while she and her husband Phil (Tom Everett Scott) are out of town. With Artie no longer working, it is the perfect opportunity to do this task, even though the distance has not exactly endeared the “other” grandparents – as Diane puts it – to Alice’s family. To make matters worse, Phil has designed an electronic “smart” house in which Artie will have to interact.
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox Pictures