He may have stepped in to host the Academy Awards in early 2012, but it's been 10 years since we last saw Billy Crystal front a feature film.

He's back in this family comedy, based on his own original idea about grandparents struggling to connect with their mollycoddled grandchildren.

Crystal is Artie, a baseball game announcer who loses his job and is then mortified to learn his wife (Midler) has agreed they will look after their three grandchildren while their parents (Marisa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott) head off to a work conference.

The premise is based on what happens when the old school parenting approach meets kids who are used to a more contemporary, protective and indulgent style of child-raising. For good measure some some high-tech gadgetry is thrown in for the old folks to handle, and we just stand back and watch the chaos unfold.


Crystal and Midler are in good form, although these roles are in no way a stretch for them. As the grandmother, Midler's character concentrates on doing what grandparents should do - spoiling the grandchildren. Crystal is happy to portray himself as the bad guy, the distracted grump who is more interested in himself and job prospects than doing what's right for the kids. Marisa Tomei also handles her neurotic mother role with ease, but Scott as her husband is under-used and left to flit in and out of scenes. The kids are impressive and do an admirable job with their exaggerated personas.

But Parental Guidance does come across a little like a series of gags, and the premise is stretched thin, but this is balanced by some heartfelt moments. After all, there are some easy targets for fun and reflection, like how your own childhood influences the way you raise your children and, of course, how ridiculously self-important parenting can become. There is nothing profound here, but if Artie being called "Farty" by a pre-schooler takes your fancy, then you'll have a laugh.

Stars: 2.5/5
Cast: Billy Crystal, Bette Midler
Director: Andy Fickman
Running time: 105 mins
Rating: PG
Verdict: Light-hearted family comedy

- Timeout