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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Video Beaverhausen: Barbra and Bette, Guilt and Guidance

Back in January, the ever-fabulous gossip maven, Janet Charlton, wrote:

Barbra Streisand can’t be thrilled that her holiday release movie “The Guilt Trip” (with Seth Rogan) has been pretty much a flop while Bette Midler’s movie, “Parental Guidance,” with Billy Crystal is a hit. “The Guilt Trip” cost 40 million to make and has only taken in around 31 million. “Parental Guidance” was made for 25 million and is expected to take in 70 million plus. Both movies obviously appeal to the older generation, but Seth Rogan halfheartedly promoted “The Guilt Trip” to HIS generation. Billy Crystal tirelessly promoted “Guidance” to an older generation and it even landed on an AARP cover. Bingo. We figure that icons Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler are more than a teensy bit competitive and Bette couldn’t be happier.

I missed out on these films theatrically, released for the year-end holiday season, mainly because of being laid low with the flu during that time. Both films were recently released on dvd and it was the opportunity to catch up.

It's no mystery why Bette beat Babs in this round of their professional feud, however. Parental Guidance is an exuberant, lighthearted comedy while The Guilt Trip is a much darker, more complicated dramedy.

Part of the box-office problem with the Streisand flick from Paramount is that it was marketed as a cutesy comedy but is actually not one by any means.  In fact, clueless Paramount has released the same, warm-and-fuzzy image of Seth Rogan and Babs on the cover of the dvd.

My problems with The Guilt Trip are its stereotyping and, largely, its lack of likeable characters. A shrill yenta of a mother with a putz of a son are not exactly people I want to spend time with. Less than charming to be sure. I couldn't wait to get out of their car, in fact! I think it would be fair to say I wasn't very invested in the destination of this movie.

On a personal footnote, I want to add that, on 9/11, I flew out of Newark but was stranded in North Carolina when the attacks occurred. We had to get out of air space. I was headed to see my family in Florida, getting off in Sarasota, where President Bush was famously in the grade school there. Continental Airlines put me up at a nice hotel in N.C., however. My brother drove up to get me from Florida. He brought his hateful, obnoxious girlfriend and my mother. Driving back was a nightmare with my Mom and Shirley carping at one another all the way to Venice, FL just when a hurricane hit. One day, I'll write a screenplay about that!

Parental Guidance, on the other hand, is a lighthearted romp as promised. Directed by Andy Fickman, who did the delicious You Again in 2010 (with Sigourney Weaver and Jamie Lee Curtis), it's another campy, feel-good comedy focused on the interrelationships between generations.

The ensemble work by a great cast adds to the pleasure of this comedy starring Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott (who I'd do in a nanosecond).

Artie and Diane agree to look after their three grandkids when their type-A helicopter parents need to leave town for work. Problems arise when the kids' 21st-century behavior collides with Artie and Diane's old-school methods is how IMDB sums up this movie, fairly accurately.

Of course, Miss Midler gets the best lines:

Marisa:"Mom, I'd like to think that you're listening to me."
Bette: "Oh, I'm sorry, honey! Did you just say something?"
(God, that was so my mom!)

Marisa (angrily): This entirely sums up your approach to parenting!
Bette: We had an approach?

And Bette's response to her granddaughter's haughty Russian violin instructor is priceless.

Highly recommended for laughter with a light touch even if it's obvious, early on, how it's going to wind up.

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