Parental Guidance is the latest family comedy that was a big hit with family audiences during the Holidays, and stars Billy Crystal and Bette Midler. Their characters are learning to love their distant grandchildren and adapting to our technological saturated world. Marissa Tomei plays their daughter and has a desperate need to “get away from things” for a week who convinces them to watch her children while away. This sweetly sincere and lovably funny movie opened on a crowded Christmas Day.
Like “Cheaper By the Dozen” there are glimmers of wit between the childish humor throughout the film and although this is too low brow for most critics, Parental Guidance played very well with families looking to entertain their children while they are out of school. Rarely do movies play well for both older adults and children as “Parental Guidance” clearly has. The reasonably cheap $25 million movie budget was a wise investment for Fox considering ‘Guidance’ grossed over $50 million through the Holidays. Parent Guidance succeeded because it had the ability to bridge the gap between two polar opposite audiences; seniors and children and in an industry that struggles to blend audiences, it becomes”Parental Guidance’s biggest accomplishment. Director Andy Fickman spoke with me about working with the talented actors and filming in the technologically entranced funhouse.
The original idea for “Parental Guidance” was based from Billy Crystal. He was babysitting his grandchildren for two days and joked how he needed a drink afterwards. Mr. Crystal thought it would make a great movie. Billy called director Andy Fickman to pitch the movie’s premise directly to him, which isn’t common for movies to be pitched this way. and Billy Crystal just wanted to have fun making a movie and thought this would be great. This is the Billy Crystal we’ve missed and the audience find so inviting plus many movie goers will find the return of Billy Crystal and Bette Midler welcoming and wonder where they have been for all this time.
“There is this misconception of where they were. “Even though they stopped acting, they still preformed.”
Fickman was absolutely correct by pointing out that they were very active in various other performance arts. Besides successfully hosting the 84th Annual Academy Awards, Crystal performed on Broadway, recorded an HBO special “Dont Get Me Started,” and wrote the book “700 Sunday.” Midler had her popular Vegas show, as well as a few low key supporting roles in movies, and even recorded musical albums.
Andy Fickman expressed that he was in awe of working with two talented and established legendary actors whom had previously never worked together.
“You had two legends who had never worked together. You saw magic between them and all I did was turn on the camera.”
Canadian child actor Kyle Harrison Breitkopf pretty much steals the movie despite the pleasant and warm return of Crystal and Midler . Breitkopfhad a rambunctious persona coupled with spontaneous humor that provided the perfect tone for the hyperactive movie and I think his popularity will grow soon. I find that far too many younger actors obnoxiously perform for the camera, but not this kid showing that Breitkopf is ready for his mainstream exposure to American audiences.
“Everything you see in the movie is his personality,” Fickman said discussing Breitkopf’s .
Getting Breitkopf to be apart of “Parental Guidance” was truly a “race against the clock” and Fickman described to me that getting Kyle’s work visa approved just before production began was cutting it close to a crucial deadline but Fickman admitted that he was willing to move the production to Canada from Atlanta just to keep him involved in the movie, evidencing his commitment and went as far as to say that he joked that they wanted to “build the set around him.” Thankfully, Breitkopf arrived just in time on the morning of the first reading.
“Parental Guidance” takes place in a truly 21st Century house with numerous gadgets meant to make life easier. Fickman described the technologically advanced house as similar to a “HAL computer” (referencing “2001: A Space Odyssey”). The filmmakers investigated the concepts of a “SmartHouse” and they met with the top designers in the industry to realistically feature technology currently being used in homes or some soon to be on the market.
“Everything in the movie is based on technology soon to be in the market place,” he said. Fickman stressed that they wanted the house to “not be too sci-fi, but realistic.”
Fickman’s direction of Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, and Kyle Harrison Breitkopf provided great comedic energy and warm sincerity throughout the film while also establishing the emerging technology within the house which provided funny insight into how out lives our technologically advancing even at home. A movie like “Parental Guidance” plays very strongly to grandparents and children in need of a movie this time of year, while potentially alienating to other audience demographics… especially most Rotten Tomatoes critics. Parental Guidance won’t appeal to many cynical critics and instead director Fickman successfully did what was needed: make a crowd pleaser for older adults and children.