Stepping Up the Grandparents' Game in "Parental Guidance"


Comedy icons Billy Crystal and Bette Midler star in the family-centric comedy “Parental Guidance” together with Marisa Tomei, Tom Everett Scott, Bailee Madison, Joshua Rush and Kylie Harrison Breitkopf directed by Andy Fickman.

A comedic and emotionally rich depiction of the clashing parenting styles between the generations, “Parental Guidance’s” subject matter, characters and actors are relatable to all audiences. Youngsters will enjoy the hijinks of the family’s trio of children; the film’s theme of being caught between your parents and kids will resonate with adults; and the movie is the first comedy in many years that shows grandparents as active, funny, involved and vital characters – and central to modern family life.


Alice (Tomei) in desperation calls her parents Artie (Crystal) and Diane (Midler) to look after their three children when she and her husband need to go on a trip. In the story, Billy Crystal’s Artie and Bette Midler’s Diane are “the other grandparents” to their three grandchildren – meaning their son-in-law’s parents have a much stronger connection with the kids, which Diane envies and has long sought to correct. But Artie and Diane’s infrequent visits to their daughter Alice’s (Marisa Tomei) home have relegated them to second-tier status – along with a few photos of the couple hidden on Alice’s mantelpiece.


Joe Syracuse & Lisa Addario, the movie’s screenwriting partners, husband-and-wife, and parents of two children, say the notion of battling parenting styles between the generations resonated with them. “Once we became parents, we realized that we were not raising them the way our parents raised us,” says Addario. The two writers, like so many of their generation, grew up during a time when children’s car seats had yet to be invented, second-hand smoke didn’t have a name, and kids rode bikes without helmets. But when our generation had kids, “the word ‘parent’ became a verb as well as a noun,” adds Syracuse. “But when the reality of childrearing set in, we came to see the wisdom in the way our parents did things, and we started to question our generation’s nurturing, coddling and overprotecting our kids.”

Director Andy Fickman, father to a teenager, says he was drawn to the movie’s universal appeal, noting that “in any country in the world, each generation thinks it has a better way to be a parent.” Like Syracuse & Addario, Fickman makes special note of the differing generational parenting methods. “When I was growing up, I would get a Pop Tart for breakfast. My parents had [famed pediatrician] Dr. [Benjamin] Spock’s book to guide them through almost all situations; today, we go to doctors for every conceivable concern. For parents today, it’s all about the kids’ feelings and emotions, and everything becomes a ‘Dr. Phil’ episode.” 


Says Bette Midler of the generational parenting conflicts: “Most people are mortified by the way they were raised and can’t wait to raise their own kids differently. I was on the cusp of the old school/new school parenting styles, so I understand the motivations of each.” A big motivation for Midler to join “Parental Guidance” was the chance to team with Billy Crystal. The two have been friends for nearly 30 years, but this is their first professional collaboration. “Billy and I have similar tastes in theater, movies, music and humor, so it was pretty easy for us to play a married couple,” says the actress. “We know what each other is going to do, so we mesh in a unique way.”


It’s a family affair when “Parental Guidance” opens in cinemas nationwide in the Phils. on January 16 from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.
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