Parental Guidance (2012) Blu-ray Review: Usually, Jokes are Funny - But Hey, Why Kill Time Laughing?

Billy Crystal challenges everything in contemporary society - including the patience of his audience.
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In an early episode of Scrubs, Neil Flynn's Janitor character sprayed Zach Braff's fictional persona of J.D. in the crotch with a mist of water. Several times, in fact. And such a juvenile prank worked then and there because the writers knew it wasn't funny - which, in turn, made it funny. The dynamic WGA-approved talents of the rarely-employed duo Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse - two of the seven people to have received credit for the already-forgotten animated kiddie film Surf's Up - on the other hand, completely failed to realize that such a cheap joke seldom causes so much as a chuckle. Ironically, their recent collaboration, Parental Guidance, contains the line "It's interesting because, usually, jokes are funny. But hey, why kill time laughing?".

And so, it would seem that Addario and Syracuse unsuccessfully heard the requests of what must have been one very limited focus group, writing one of the worst family comedies to hit theaters around the holidays since the last one, and which ultimately is capable of making both adults and children alike squirm with the same kind of stomach-churning agitation we tend to get at the sight of a disheveled, malodorous, alcoholic mall Santa leaving work in a van with the words "Free Candy" spray-painted onto the side. And, as if the aforementioned (and so-called) writers and their partner-in-crime director Andy Fickman unanimously decided to simply dare you to watch the slimy cinematic abortion that escaped to garner the public's disrespect under the header Parental Guidance wasn't bad enough, the one and only Billy Crystal brought his sinking career onboard the garbage scow that was doomed to capsize the moment it set sail.

Here, star/co-producer Billy Crystal plays an aging, sports-obsessed (of course!) Jewish man who can't get the hang of modern technology or the overly-sensitive world's bizarre behavior. After losing his job because he's just not tech-savvy enough, his wife (played by Bette Midler, who is pretty much there just to not sort of do anything in particular) agrees to babysit the three heathen (and surprisingly diverse) offspring that have been spawned by their daughter (Marisa Tomei) and her techie hubby (Tom Everett Scott - remember him?). From there, director Fickman - who achieved something resembling fame in his own mind from classics such as She's the Man and at least two Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson movies too many - places his embarrassed cast in one hideously awkward situation after another.

Yes, one of those moments involves Billy Crystal getting sprayed in the crotch with a water gun. This is followed with a moment wherein an angry, badly behaved bully beats Billy's boys by baseball bat (go ahead, say those last nine words five times fast - it's still more amusing than anything Parental Guidance has to offer). Somehow, it all manages to get much worse from there, kids - with Billy sitting on a public toilet seat with his unruly redheaded grandson encouraging the lad's impending bowel movement via song, cameos by Tony Hawk and Steve Levy, a misplaced and malnourished moral for the story, and just an inescapably familiar feeling that we saw this all once before - only better. And, of course, we did - in Parenthood. Now note the artwork for both movies.

doh.jpgYou feel that? That's your soul evaporating - much like the innocence of anyone would who might catch a ride with a disheveled, malodorous, alcoholic mall Santa in his van.

Fox Home Entertainment brings us this act of violence against one's sense of scruples to Blu-ray with a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC transfer that is fairly pleasing overall. At least, I think it was. Frankly, I was so numb from the quality of the movie itself that it's kind of hard to tell here in retrospect. The movie sports a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English soundtrack (with Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 options as well, just so no one in Northern America misses out on the hurt) which is as good as generic family fare like this can probably have. Again, I'm going off of memory here. Special features for this Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo dud include an audio commentary with director Fickman and Billy Crystal, deleted scenes (with optional commentary by Fickman), a gag reel (oh, goody), and some EPK-style interviews with the film's top three adult leads (translation: no Tom Everett Scott).

My advice: skip it like you have never skipped a bad family movie before.

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