Grandmother knows best in Parental Guidance, an intergenerational comedy of bad manners and frayed tempers, which welcomes Bette Midler back to the big screen after a four-year hiatus.
The Oscar-nominated actress and singer is the jewel in the tarnished crown of Andy Fickman’s film, armed to her polished teeth with many of the script’s best lines.
She looks resplendent in soft lighting, bridging most of the 19-year age gap to on-screen daughter Marisa Tomei, and also belts out an impromptu rendition of The Book Of Love by The Monotones with co-star Billy Crystal.
The central clash between old-fashioned ideals and 21st century desires has been portrayed in countless other comedies, and more deftly than scriptwriters Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse manage here.
They are suckers for mawkish sentimentality and foolishly burden each of the protagonists with an insecurity or quirk that needs to be salved by the end credits.
Thus one child has a stutter and another is dependent on an imaginary kangaroo called Carl.
Artie Decker (Billy Crystal) and his wife Diane (Midler) are childhood sweethearts who have been married for more than 40 years.
Artie is a baseball commentator for his local team while Diane keeps in shape by pole-dancing with her gal pals.
When the couple’s daughter, Alice (Marisa Tomei), telephones to ask Artie and Diane to babysit their three grandchildren – Harper (Bailee Madison), Turner (Joshua Rush) and Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf) – the grandparents do not know how to relate to Harper, Turner and Barker and their modern fads.