Maybe Billy Crystal’s residual checks from Monsters Inc. were starting to dry up (though the recent 3D re-release should have helped). And no doubt Bette Midler’s royalties from Beaches aren’t quite what they used to be. I’m not sure what else can explain why either of these two people signed up for a piece of dreck like Parental Guidance.

I’ll qualify that last statement.

It’s only dreck if you’re over the age of 12. If you’re still of an age where getting hit in the crotch with a bat, pooping, water gun-made “pee” stains, and chili dog vomit are funny, have at it. Heck, maybe if you have kids that age (or younger, actually– there’s nothing fatal on display here), give it a shot.

Otherwise, live happily with memories of Crystal rustlin’ cattle in City Slickers and Midler belting out “The Rose”.

The latest from director Andy Fickman (You Again) is rife with see-them-coming-a-mile-away moments, coupled with enough schmaltz to make a Care Bear gag. And the whole premise is just downright odd and too unrealistic to even be a satire.

Artie (Crystal) is the play-by-play man for the Fresno Grizzlies, but he’s given the ax for being “dead wood” and not knowing how to poke and tweet. Just as he returns home to his wife Diane (Midler), they get a call from his daughter Alice (Marisa Tomei), who’s asking if Gramps and Gram can babysit her three kids for the week.

Here’s the thing, though. Alice and her husband Phil (Tom Everett Scott) make new age parents look downright parochial. They never use the word ‘no’, don’t allow any sugar in the house, and pay more money in therapy bills (pediatric and adult) than most of us earn in a year. Try to relate to these people, I dare you.

Of course Artie and Diane are all “have some cake!” and “don’t color outside the lines!” so conflict arises. So much so that Alice can’t actually let herself go on her couples’ getaway vacation with her husband.

To be fair, there actually are some funny moments, and the audience in did seem to be enjoying itself for the most part, but by the end of Parental Guidance, I can’t imagine too many people saying anything more than “That was cute.” Even the huge (don’t worry, I won’t give anything away), tear-inducing “moment” at the end of the movie, I think, will even seem ridiculous after you’ve had some time to digest it.

Husband-and-wife screenwriting team Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse actually hit a home run it in their first major film, 2007’s Surf’s Up, but here we get just one bit of preschool-level raunch after another. Apparently they knew that the whole plot was too juvenile for parents to have to sit through at Christmas, so we’re given ‘adult’ bits like skateboarder Tony Hawk face-planting in a puddle of pee-pee. Ha!

Fickman, who actually made a halfway decent kids/parents movie with 2007’s The Game Plan falls flat on his grill himself. Unable to figure out what kind of movie he’s making, he’s put together a goofy, dramatic, tug-at-the-heartstrings family film that includes an entire scene dedicated to boogers.

Sure, it’ll make you cry… to see what Crystal and Midler (and Tomei, for heaven’s sake– the woman did win an Oscar) have lowered themselves to. And, sure, it’ll make you laugh… at it.

But Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman were both able to successfully shake off two awful Fockers sequels, so– there’s that.

2/5 stars