Crystal and Midler have a long history of playing “big” with their broad attempts at humor. They want you to like them. They really want you to like them. So it’s somewhat surprising that, after the story shifts from Artie and Diane to Alice and Phil, the movie suffers badly. Tomei’s Alice is a thankless role—a helicopter parent who can’t bear to separate herself from her precious children for more than a day. In comparison to the pathetic and unlikable Alice, Artie and Diane’s mugging for the camera and deadpan punchlines come off as at least passable, if not exactly pleasant.

The older couple’s parenting philosophy also carries the day. It’s sensible and not so child-centric that the adults’ lives are consumed by the lives of the kids. Although Artie and Diane have moments of failure in trying to provide basic care for the kids over the course of their visit—Artie unwisely takes the youngest boy to the X Games, while Diane shares one too many stories with her granddaughter about the delights of “getting bombed”—it’s the younger couple who discovers they have more to learn from their elders, rather than the other way around.

Does that make Parental Guidance worth your time? Not at the theater. It is, at best, something to watch on DVD or cable. There’s absolutely nothing about it that cries out for a big screen experience. The film opens on Christmas Day—the same day that Les Miserables, a story of hope, redemption and Christian grace, also debuts at theaters around the country. The preferable choice is obvious. And that’s my parental guidance on the matter.


  • Language/Profanity: Constipation joke; a grandfather and his grandson sing a song about “Mr. Doody” in order to help the young boy go to the bathroom; daughter tells her mother, “I hate you and wish anyone else were my mother”
  • Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: At 9 a.m., a character says, “I need a martini”; grandmother recounts to her grandchildren a cherished memory about “getting bombed”; wine consumption
  • Sex/Nudity: A “kiss cam” at a minor-league baseball game captures a kiss and a marriage proposal; a kiss lacking passion is said to be a sign that the couple is married; a husband and wife are shown lying bed; a joke about male breast-feeding; a joke about groping during an airport security pat-down; a wet crotch area of a man’s pants gets blow-dried; undoing a seatbelt latch is said to be “more difficult than your grandma’s bra;” a husband and wife kiss; grandmother tells her daughter that the daughter’s husband wants to see her, but “I don’t think he wants you in clothes;” a joke about “melon grabbing”
  • Violence/Crime: A boy and his grandfather watch a clip from one of the Saw horror movies; a blow to a man’s groin area; the man then vomits, and later applies ice to the affected area; a bloody nose; a black eye

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Publication date: December 25, 2012