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'Parental Guidance' and 'Guilt Trip' Find Fun in Families

Billy Crystal and Bette Midler are clueless grands; Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen beg to bicker

Two new comedies dip into the generation gap for their laughs this Christmas season, and while one is decidedly more successful than the other, either one would be a fun diversion from the actual rifts that might appear around your holiday table this year.

Also watch: Q&A with Parental Guidance director, young stars

Parental Guidance is simply the funnier of the two films, maybe because it has less to prove. Billy Crystal and Bette Midler play grandparents (and just saying that makes you chuckle a bit) to a brood of overprotected kids. When Grandpa and Grandma are asked to watch the children for a week, humor — and sometimes hilarity — ensue.

The Guilt Trip, starring Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen, crams our protagonists into a compact car, basically mounts a camera to the hood and lets the two have at it. They play mother and son embarking on a cross-country car ride, and the funny bits arise from Barbra being Barbra and Seth being Seth.

You can see the contrast right away. If you have kids and you live long enough, you will (trust me) be asked to watch your grandkids, and for a good deal of the time you won't know what you're doing. On the other hand, chances are slim indeed that your grown child is going to pop by one day and invite you to spend the next week with him driving cross-country.

Parental Guidance

Director: Andy Fickman
Rating: PG Running Time: 104 min.
Stars: Bette Midler, Billy Crystal, Marisa Tomei

The laughs come so easy in Parental Guidance it doesn't seem fair. (Perusing the photographs on their daughter's mantelpiece, Bette finds the lone picture of herself and Billy tucked behind all the others, and she gasps, "We're the other grandparents!") The kids can't eat sugar, so of course Grandpa feeds them cake. The T-ball league doesn't keep score, so Grandpa gets into a fight with the ump. Driving the kids to school, Grandpa can't unbuckle the darned car seat, so he simply removes the seat, kid and all, and hands it over to a befuddled teacher.

Crystal and Midler are a delight, and the kids are cute. Parental Guidance won't win any Oscars for anyone, but I'd rather spend 90 minutes with these guys than three hours with Les Misérables' Jean Valjean any day.

Next page:  Watch "The Guilt Trip" trailer and see how it rates. »

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