Crystal, Midler punch up 'Parental Guidance'

| Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, 7:16 p.m.


‘Parental Guidance'

PG for some rude humor; ** 12

There's something to be said for a movie not being as bad as it sounds.

In fact, that's most of what there is to say about “Parental Guidance,” a comedy in which Billy Crystal and Bette Midler play old-school grandparents who have to keep their new-age-ish grandkids for a few days. But it is sweet and means well, and Crystal is much more engaging here than he is wearing a tux and mugging as the host of the Academy Awards. So that's something.

Artie (Crystal) and his wife, Diane (Midler), are asked by their daughter, Alice (Marisa Tomei), to look after the kids while she and her husband, Phil (Tom Everett Scott), go out of town. A set-up scene lets us know that this is the last thing Alice and Phil want to do.

Alice didn't approve of the way Artie and Diane raised her. She's particularly distant from Artie, who wasn't around a lot while traveling for work. She and Phil are more touchy-feely types, taking things like kid empowerment to absurd levels.

And there, pretty much, is your movie. Will the grandchildren, reluctant at first, eventually respond to Artie and Diane? Will Artie and Diane learn lessons, too?

You know the answer.

You know all the answers, really, if you've ever seen any movie remotely like this.

The thing that makes it modestly better than it might have been is Crystal. This is the first time in ages the old stand-up Crystal shows through, flashes of quick wit instead of Borscht-belt antics. Not to the extent that it used to in such movies as “When Harry Met Sally ...” (which was, ahem, 23 years ago). But better than you'd expect.

Just like the movie.

• Wide release

— Gannett News Service

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