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"Parental Guidance": Modern Life Is Rubbish 

Wednesday, Dec 26 2012
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In much the same way that pig-romancing hill folk felt slandered by William Denison "Bill" McKinney's performance in Deliverance, the elderly have cause to feel scandalized by their portrayal in Andy Fickman's Parental Guidance. The Billy Crystal/Bette Midler vehicle is an extended "in my day" joke intended to convey the superiority of old people over a lot of supposedly contemporary behavior that doesn't actually exist in real life. The film is unpopulated by anything resembling an actual human being, and the non-Lipitor-ingesting characters are 2-D cutouts for Billy Crystal to smack around with his smirky jowls. Artie Decker (Crystal), a cornball announcer for the Fresno Grizzlies, is fired from his job by an executive who sprays a withering fusillade of Internet buzzwords, advancing the film's contention that non-elderly people are ridiculous aliens, while providing one of many opportunities for Crystal's jowls to portray "befuddled." Out of touch with tweets or whatever, Artie, along with his wife, Diane (Midler), launches his new season of unemployment by babysitting his daughter's fucked-up children in a digitally automated house "invented" by his son-in-law. Among all the carpooling and violin lessons and whatnot, Midler, Crystal, and Crystal's befuddled jowls evince smugness toward caricatures of overprotective parents, educators spewing befuddling jargon, befuddling technology, and a befuddling kid's baseball league with a befuddling lack of strikes, penalties, or points. The film might be remembered for its discovery of the hateful state of "smug-fuddlement," a combination of "befuddlement" and "smug."

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Chris Packham

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