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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Parental Guidance

By
Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service


Billy Crystal, Kyle Harrison Breitkopf and Joshua Rush star in a scene from the movie "Parental Guidance."
Though it means well, "Parental Guidance" (Fox) suffers from an excess of potty humor.

Granted, they're family-style potty gags, and every parent of a young child has probably experienced similar incidents to what is portrayed. It's just that such humor is a sign of desperation; it means the filmmakers have no better ideas.

One of the very few performers to handle such material successfully was the late Bernie Mac in his eponymous sitcom. It worked there because first of all, it was a half-hour program, and second, because children out of control in any way made Mac's character affect wounded dignity, do a slow burn or erupt in anger, and he had talented writers and versatile ways of putting this across.

Nothing of the kind here, alas. Director Andy Fickman and screenwriters Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse, working from an idea of Billy Crystal's (who stars), produce some very stale and predictable ideas in this slow-moving story of grandparents who try to connect with grandchildren they've almost never seen.

Crystal is Artie Decker, who has longed to become a big-league radio announcer but has only gotten as far as calling games for the Fresno Grizzlies, the Triple-A farm team of the San Francisco Giants. For 35 years, he's wanted to work for the Giants, but loses his Fresno job when the team owner decides he's old-fashioned and attracts only older listeners.

At the same time, his daughter, Alice (Marisa Tomei), and son-in-law, Phil (Tom Everett Scott), who live overscheduled lives in Atlanta, have a chance to reconnect romantically on a weeklong sales conference in Hilton Head, S.C., for the "smart homes" Phil designs.

His parents are on a cruise. That means calling in "the other grandparents" -- Artie and Diane (Bette Midler) -- to take care of grandchildren they've not seen in years.

The children are wary of these earthy grandparents and have issues of their own. Aspiring violinist Harper (Bailee Madison), 12, is uncertain whether music is her life's goal; 9-year-old Turner (Joshua Rush) stutters and is bullied in school, and 5-year-old Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf) has an imaginary kangaroo friend named Carl, who makes all his decisions for him.

There's a running gag involving a rude rhyme with Artie's name, and Breitkopf is assigned all the scenes involving scatological matters.

Political incorrectness ensues. Artie can't understand why all Turner's baseball games end in ties and kids stay at the plate until they get a hit, while Diane, a former TV weather girl, enjoys playing an aggressive stage mother to Harper. Barker confuses everyone and nearly stops a performance of the Atlanta Symphony, and Artie unsuccessfully auditions for a job announcing the X Games on ESPN.

Grandparental attention, even the clumsy kind, eventually helps all the children overcome their problems. Special use is made of a recording of the broadcast of Bobby Thomson's dramatic ninth-inning home run that captured the 1951 National League pennant for the then-New York Giants.

The film contains childish scatological humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested.

*****
Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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