‘Guid­ance’ is mostly schmaltz

Sen­ti­men­tal stuff works but the com­edy is tepid, pre­dictable.

Austin American-Statesman - - LIFE & ARTS - By Roger Moore McClatchy-Tri­bune News Ser­vice

The fam­ily-friendli­est movie com­edy this hol­i­day sea­son is also the sap­pi­est and schmaltzi­est. And thanks to Billy Crys­tal, the shtick­i­est.

“Parental Guid­ance” is a mild-man­nered riff on par­ent­ing, then-and-now. It con­trasts the top-down/ca­reer­first men­tal­ity of one gen­er­a­tion with the cod­dled “nur­tur­ing” of to­day, but never takes a stand on which is bet­ter.

Ba­si­cally, it’s a ve­hi­cle for Billy Crys­tal, and to a lesser de­gree Bette Mi­dler, to riff on the spoiled, overindulged and some­times up­tight kids their kid is rais­ing.

Ar­tie (Crys­tal) is a mi­nor­league base­ball an­nouncer who never got to his dream job, cov­er­ing San Fran­cisco Giants games. He’s con­tent to make home­spun wise­cracks in front of the mike for the Fresno Griz­zlies. Un­til they lay him off for not be­ing so­cial me­dia savvy.

“I’ll tweet! I’ll make what­ever noise you want!”

His re­tired “weather girl” wife Diane in­ter­rupts her pole-dance aer­o­bics class to com­fort him and lis­ten to his lies about how young he “feels.”

Daugh­ter Alice (Marisa Tomei) is a Web de­signer in At­lanta with hus­band Phil (Tom Everett Scott) in the to­tally com­put­er­ized house Phil de­signed.

Their kids — 12-8-5 — have play dates, ball­games and re­hearsals. Vi­o­lin­ist daugh­ter Harper (Bailee Madi­son) would dis­cover boys, if she weren’t stress­ing over a big au­di­tion that sets up her Berlin Phil­har­monic life plan. Turner ( Joshua Rush) is a bul­lied stam­merer whose lit­tle league doesn’t keep score, deny­ing him the chance to excel at any­thing. And Barker (Kyle Har­ri­son Bre­itkopf ) is a mop-topped ter­ror with an imag­i­nary kan­ga­roo friend.

Into this world come “the other grand­par­ents,” the West Coast cou­ple that never sees them be­cause Ar­tie has been all about the job all his life. They’re not the first choice, but Phil and Alice have a get-away planned — if only Alice can let go.

What­ever Ar­tie and Diane did with Alice isn’t good enough for Alice’s kids. She takes their finicky din­ner or­ders, by text. The kids aren’t al­lowed sugar, are fer­ried hither and yon to ap­point­ments — touchyfeely speech ther­apy for Turner, vi­o­lin lessons from a Rus­sian “Tiger Mom” for Harper. Tofu mom Alice never lets them hear the word “No.”

Crys­tal de­liv­ers tepidly caus­tic rants, Mi­dler in­vokes the oc­ca­sional in­ap­pro­pri­ate life les­son, and Tomei strug­gles to find any­thing fun about her smoth­er­ing mother. The laughs are, to use the old-fash­ioned term, tele­graphed. A Billy and Bette duet of “Who Wrote the Book of Love” is cute, but the setup is slug­gish.

At least the sen­ti­men­tal stuff works. And the toi­let jokes. Rat­ing: PG for­rude hu­mor. Run­ning time: 1 hour, 40 min­utes. The­aters: Barton Creek, Cine­mark Stone Hill, City Lights, Galaxy Moviehouse, Lake­line, Starplex, Tin­sel­town South, West gate.

TURY FOX 20TH CEN-

Billy Crys­tal re­al­izes his grand­son Kyle Har­ri­son Bre­itkapf had a tad too much sugar.

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