By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Parental Guidance is a family comedy that tugs on the heartstrings as it tickles the parent-child funny bone.

Well-matched old pros Billy Crystal and Bette Midler play Artie and Diane Decker.   He’s a baseball announcer for a minor league California baseball team –- a job he loves — who has just been shown the door.  She’s a former TV weathercaster who wishes they had more contact with their daughter and three grandchildren.

(2½ stars out of 4)

(2½ stars out of 4)

Their daughter and son-in-law, preposterously progressive parents living in Atlanta (played by Marisa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott), ask them to watch their three kids (Bailee Madison, Joshua Rush, and Kyle Harrison Breitkopf) for five days in their high-tech home while they’re away on a business trip/much-needed vacation.

Grumpy Artie is unenthusiastic about the idea, but Diane sees it as a chance for them to come out from under their long-distance label as the “other grandparents.”

But their old-school childrearing ways don’t match the Type-A “helicopter” parenting that their coddled grandchildren are used to getting.

Director Andy Fickman (You Again, The Game Plan, She’s the Man, Race to Witch Mountain) raises his game with this pleasantly watchable comedy, working from a connect-the-dots script by screenwriting spouses Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse that, hoping to play like a companion-piece “Grandparenthood” to Ron Howard’s Parenthood, stays on the charted path throughout.

Crystal, also a producer, appears in his first live-action film since 2002’s Analyze That, working in enough of his trademark shtick to leave his effective but perhaps overly self-centered footprint all over the finished product.

Crystal and Midler easily display their sharp, skilled comic timing, and the three kids hold their own opposite them.

And while there are a few scenes that strain credulity and lay an egg, there are an equal number of legitimately heartwarming exchanges that register and resonate for the family audience.

Much more focused on eternal verities than trailblazing creativity, and not all that inspired but nonetheless not exactly tired, Parental Guidance offers laughs and heart and folk wisdom for the family audience.  Not a bad deal.

So we’ll babysit 2½ stars out of 4 for an undemandingly pleasant and sporadically funny parenting-values comedy that is, appropriately enough, rated PG.  Parental Guidance isn’t suggestive, but is suggested.  And recommended.

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