At The Movies

Parental Guidance

Parental Guidance

Directed by: Andy Fickman

Starring: Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott

Cert: G

I wouldn’t have guessed that Billy Crystal and Bette Midler were stuck for a few bob, but I can’t think of any other reason they’d have gotten on board a piece of muck like Parental Guidance. Not that you’d begrudge them the money in these strange times, but they’re far better than this, and can surely find something more useful to be doing, even in a town that’s never been kind to the old.

The pair play Artie and Diane, a happy couple whose life takes a bad turn when Artie loses his job as a baseball announcer. It gets even worse when they end up babysitting the kids from hell.

Their daughter Alice (Tomei) and her husband Phil (Scott) need to leave town for a couple of days, to pick up an award for designing a fancy house that’s completely computerised. Artie and Diane get the job of minding the three children, each one more dysfuntional than the next, in a home where the old school, tech-ignorant grandparents are utterly clueless.

It’s the kind of set-up that could have made a great family movie, a fish-out-of-water, generation-gap yarn with a nice lttle message about respect and understanding.

But that would have required a half-decent script, and this one plays like it was written by a committee of infants, high on sugar and recycling jokes that their parents first laughed at when they were kids.

The kind of gags that involve various bodily fluids, “funny” names for the human anatomy, and baseball bats to the crotch - and when all else fails, a lot of roaring and shouting and falling down. Which is bad, but something might yet have been salvaged if Crystal, Midler and the usually charming Marisa Tomei had managed to rise above the mess. But they don’t, choosing instead to mug and ham and shriek their way through – either that, or what we see on screen is these very talented people actually losing their minds.

If it’s any consoaltion to them, the audience will understand.

Pitch Perfect

Directed by: Jason Moore

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow and Rebel Wilson

Cert: 12A

Glee has a lot to answer for, not least the revived popularity of a certain Journey song that I probably heard four hundred times in Christmas week alone, when I couldn’t walk into a pub without having my ears assaulted by some band or DJ who should have their equipment confiscated immediately as a public safety concern.

But Pitch Perfect is one of the less offensive side effects, a reasonably enjoyable caper that I liked despite my severe allergy to this kind of thing in general.

Becca (Kendrick) dreams of running off to LA and making it big. Her father makes a deal with her: stick it out for a year in college first and join one afterschool activity.

Turns out her campus is a bit of a hotbed for a capella groups, no doubt another thing the Glee gang will answer for in eternity. Becca hooks up with a female group called The Bellas, whose lead singer has had an unfortunate encounter involving projectile vomit, not the best for to be in at the national finals.

Becca is recruited in the shower by the group’s leading light Chloe (Snow). Which is original, I suppose. Likewise another new member, who calls herself Fat Amy (Wilson) on the reasonable grounds that everyone is calling her that behind her back anyway.

Along the way to her big day in the spotlight, Becca finds the makings of a romance with Jesse (Skylar Astin), a campus DJ who atones for some of his musical sins by declaring that The Breakfast Club had the greatest closing scene in cinema history.

He might not be entirely right but any John Hughes fan is a fine movie character in my book. Ominously, Becca doesn’t share his fondness for the great man’s high school classic.

Pitch Perfect isn’t quite in the Hughes league, but it’s not too shabby either.

The cast is a likeable bunch, the story is grand, and there’s enough tunes packed in the soundtrack to cater for almost everyone. There’s a commentary duo, too, who try to whip up a bit of the old Fred Willard spirit from Best in Show. It doesn’t always work but, like everyone else here, they get a few points for effort.