Parental Guidance: Starring Billy Crystal and Bette Midler

Artie Decker (Billy Crystal), who is accustomed to calling the shots, meets his match when he and his eager-to-please wife Diane (Bette Midler) agree to babysit their three grandkids when their type-A helicopter parents (Marisa Tomei, Tom Everett Scott) go away for work. But when 21st century problems collide with Artie and Diane’s old school methods of tough rules, lots of love and old-fashioned games, it’s learning to bend – and not holding your ground – that brings a family together.

A comedic and emotionally rich depiction of the clashing parenting styles between the generations, PARENTAL GUIDANCE’s subject matter, characters and actors are relatable to all audiences. Youngsters will enjoy the hijinks of the family’s trio of children; the film’s theme of being caught between your parents and kids will resonate with adults; and PARENTAL GUIDANCE is the first comedy in many years that shows grandparents as active, funny, involved and vital characters – and central to modern family life.

“PARENTAL GUIDANCE combines comedy and pathos in the best way,” affirms Billy Crystal, who portrays Artie Decker. “It’s what life is about. This film has something for everyone.”

In the story, Billy Crystal’s Artie and Bette Midler’s Diane are “the other grandparents” to their three grandchildren – meaning their son-in-law’s parents have a much stronger connection with the kids, which Diane envies and has long sought to correct. But Artie and Diane’s infrequent visits to their daughter Alice’s (Marisa Tomei) home have relegated them to second-tier status – along with a few photos of the couple hidden on Alice’s mantelpiece.

“It’s not that Artie and Diane don’t love Alice – who is their only child – and her three kids; they just don’t understand them,” explains Midler. Diane has renewed hope when Alice reluctantly invites her and Artie to babysit the couple’s grandkids while Alice and husband Phil (Tom Everett Scott) enjoy some time away from home. For Alice, her invitation is an act of, well, desperation – her in-laws are unavailable so she must turn to Artie and Diane for help. (Alice’s misgiving even lead to her breaking out in a rash.) But Diane sees it as a golden opportunity: “Grandparenting is a second chance” to be a part of their lives of their grandchildren and Alice – she tells Artie, who is much less enthused about hanging out with the kids he barely knows.

Artie’s mixed feelings about this “second chance” are partly due to his recent professional setbacks. A minor league baseball announcer for over 30 years, Artie has just been fired, losing his dream to work in the major leagues. Still reeling from that disappointment, the last thing he wants is to look after his grandchildren. But Artie will ultimately discover that there’s more to life than announcing ball games. “He’s been fired from a job he loves, but then finds himself kind of falling in love with his grandkids,” says Crystal.

Before getting to that point, Artie undergoes a series of granddad vs. daughter/grandkids comedic misadventures, misunderstandings and mistakes, not to mention daug.hter Alice’s lack of faith in his ability to stick to her myriad rules and regulations. Says Marisa Tomei: “Artie and Diane are like a ‘club of two’ and haven’t cultivated relationships with their grandchildren. They had a great time living their own lives, but forgot to get to know the kids.”
Artie has to really step up his grandpa game because Alice is a formidable taskmaster and is nothing less than the motor in her and husband Phil’s household. She’s the consummate multi-tasker, lives to nurture, and will do whatever it takes – including wheedle, charm, joke – to keep everything running smoothly and stay connected to her kids. “Like many moms, Alice keeps the calendar and cookies,” Tomei says, in a bit of understatement.

Alice’s 21st century methods of raising her children are facilitated by the “smart house” technological marvels designed by Phil. Everything in their home is fully automated and interactive, thanks to an artificial intelligence that programs everything from the kids’ schedules to what they eat, and it’s compatible with the DVR and coffee maker. But for the technologically-challenged Artie, it’s more like the menacing HAL 9000 computer of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey…or worse. “Just give us the launch codes and we’re all set,” he deadpans, when he sees the smart house program, called “R-Life,” in action.

Then there’s the formidable task of getting used to being around three children, to whom Artie immediately lays out some of his own ground rules, one of which vetoes the use of any and all affectionate terms for a grandparent. “Don’t call me Moop Moop, Bub Bup or Pee Pee,” he warns the three youngsters. I’m just Artie.”

Moreover, Artie is mystified by each of the kids’ eccentricities. Harper (Bailee Madison), 12, is intense, brainy, and an overachiever who’s so busy with her burgeoning music career, she has no time to be a kid. She’s very tightly wound – almost as much as her mother is. “Harper is uptight and always wants to please her parents,” says Bailee. “She’s conflicted between the world of her parents and grandparents.”

Youngest grandkid Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf), 5, like many children, has an imaginary friend, a kangaroo named Carl. “They say inventing an alter ego is a side of genius,” explains Alice, but Artie sees Carl as yet another reason he should dread his new assignment as babysitter.

Middle child Turner (Joshua Rush), 9, is a good kid saddled with a speech impediment that makes him the target of the school bully. Additionally, when Turner plays a little league baseball game, Artie is astonished by the classic game’s strange new rules. After Turner seemingly strikes out an opposing batter, Artie is filled with pride and overjoyed – until he learns that the teams no longer keep score, and no one is ever out. “You mean, there’s no agony of defeat; just the thrill of a tie!?” a disbelieving Artie exclaims.