Friday, 28 December 2012

Parental Guidance

Parental Guidance
dir Andy Fickman; with Billy Crystal, Bette Midler 12/US ***
There's not much to this silly, sentimental comedy, but it goes down easy as a bit of undemanding, unoriginal nonsense. Crystal and Midler don't stretch themselves at all in their roles as grandparents taking care of the three lively children of their uptight daughter (Marisa Tomei). Life lessons are announced early on, so there are no surprises there. And the continual stream of wacky slapstick set pieces is unimaginative and predictable. But there are some nice moments along the way, mainly in Crystal's snappy delivery of usually obvious one-liners. It all turns unnecessarily sentimental in the end, by which time we have nearly been lulled to sleep, so we're vulnerable to the manipulative warm-fuzzy interaction. None of the actors breaks a sweat, there's nothing to stimulate thought and Fickman's direction is functional at best. And yet, in the end it leaves us feeling happy and mildly entertained. And it makes us wonder why Crystal doesn't get better scripts than this.

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I've only seen one other film in cinemas in the past week, and that was a family outing to Les Miserables, my second look at the film. It's still a surging emotional experience, although the flaws are more visible on a repeat viewing, including Tom Hooper's bludgeoning direction and the rather odd stage-bound street sets. Otherwise we've been watching lots of holiday movies on TV, including the best of them all, It's a Wonderful Life, which is always more engaging than we remember it being. And the there were the three Santa Clause movies starring Tim Allen, with their ever-diminishing returns, and Allen also stars in Christmas With the Kranks, an enjoyably corny holiday comedy. Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn just bout maintain their charm through the uneven Four Christmases, but even Jim Carrey can't keep us smiling through Ron Howard's eerily mean-spirited How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Where was Bad Santa when I needed it?

Back to London on Sunday, with a stack of screeners to watch before casting final votes in the Online and London critics awards - including Compliance, Jiro Dreams of Sushi and The Invisible War.

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