Parental Guidance Is Not Just for Grandparents


The biggest surprise about Billy Crystal’s new movie, Parental Guidance, is the broad appeal it has for the whole family—all three generations. I expected to see lots of grandparents in the theater but there were more kids with their parents. I can understand why. The three grandchildren featured in Parental Guidance are so fun to watch. They all have unique personalities and are able to establish a special bond with their grandparents.

I’ve always loved Billy Crystal—he’s hilarious in this movie. I started laughing from the first moment and continued throughout the entire movie until the end when I shed a tear for the touching surprise ending.

Crystal produced the movie and said the idea came from his real-life experience caring for his own granddaughters, ages 3, 6 and 9. He and his wife were confounded by the “pages and pages” of rules their daughter left for them when they babysat for the girls for six days. When Crystal came home, he started writing the story for the movie.

Bette Midler makes a convincing grandma even though she isn’t one yet. She bonds with her granddaughter in one of the early scenes. Midler is helping her granddaughter buy a dress for her violin audition. Marisa Tomei, who plays Crystal and Midler’s daughter, is horrified when grandma gives a thumbs down to a black sheath that “makes her look like a 12-year old widow” and instead, takes a slinky dress with spaghetti straps off the rack. From that point on they’re pals.

Midler performs two great song routines—a jingle she used to sing with her daughter when she was a television weather announcer and a great doo-wop duo with Crystal singing the Monotones’ 1958 classic “The Book of Love.” Crystal reminisces about singing it to their daughter when she was growing up. Midler is delighted to find that it’s #1 on Tomei’s playlist.

In one of the film’s most hilarious scenes, Crystal sings a solo to his grandson that he wrote himself encouraging his grandson to go #2 in a public restroom.

The movie covers all the familiar grandparent jokes:

  • ugly sweaters made by grandma that the grandchildren are forced to wear when she comes to visit (they are LOL hilarious!)
  • grandparent competition over who’s the favorite and who’s the “other
  • grandparents breaking the parents’ rules when they’re not around and warning the kids not to tell their mother
  • old school vs. new school thinking on parenting methods
  • grandparents spoiling the grandchildren to get on their good side

The sweetest part of the movie is watching the grandparents and grandchildren become friends and champions of each other. When the movie starts, Crystal and Midler haven’t seen their daughter, son-in-law or grandchildren in almost a year and they hardly know each other. The interesting twist is that even though they’re the maternal grandparents, they’re considered the “other” grandparents because they haven’t been in the picture, literally.

To illustrate this distinction they look at the family mantel and it’s covered with photos of the paternal grandparents. Crystal makes a lot of mistakes but it’s sweet and touching how often Crystal he apologizes for his behavior. He said “I’m sorry” at least half a dozen times, which is wise grandparent behavior.

Parental Guidance is a feel great movie that will have you laughing with familiarity and probably shedding a tear if you’re a softie like this grandma. Be sure to stay for the credits. They show family photos of all the cast and crew, many with grandparents.