Artie (Billy Crystal) is a minor league baseball announcer who always dreamed of announcing for the Giants. He is fired at the end of the season because he is too old-school. Insert “What’s Twitter?” and “What’s an Angry Bird?” jokes. His wife, Diane (Bette Midler), teaches pole dancing in their living room for no reason except that it must be funny to see middle-aged ladies try to pole dance. Their daughter, Alice (Marisa Tomei) is happily married to Phil (“That Thing You Do'” Tom Everett Scott), newly settled in Atlanta with their three children.
Phil’s new project is a super-duper high-tech home system that welcomes every family member when they come into the house, bids them farewell when they leave and talks to and spies on them in between. When Artie and Diane arrive to babysit while Alice and Phil go to a business conference, we can expect to be treated to the conflict between Artie, whose ability with technology ended with the dial phone (until the script calls for him to pull up a track on an iPod) and the high-tech house. And when Alice explains that their parenting philosophy is to say “remember the consequences” instead of “no” and insist on three “put-ups” to counter any “put-downs,” we can expect that, well, there will be consequences. Everyone tries hard, but the talented cast is utterly wasted in a series of mind-numbingly obvious and heart-numbingly phony set-ups.
The oldest grandchild is Harper (Bailee Madison, giving the film’s best performance), a middle-schooler who is something of a perfectionist. She has a big violin audition coming up, a teacher who thinks anyone who isn’t up to her standards should be shunned, and an increasing sense that she is missing out on some of the fun of the pre-teen years. The youngest is Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf), a high-spirited five-year-old perpetual flight risk who insists on calling his grandfather “Fartie,” which is even less hilarious than you might hope. No good asking him to consider the consequences; there aren’t any.
Then there’s the middle child, Turner (Joshua Rush), a stressed-out, shy kid with a bad stutter. The cynical sloppiness of this film is revealed in Turner’s miraculous transformation into a completely fluent speaker as the result of hearing the famous Russ Hodges “Giants win the pennant” broadcast, disrespectful in the extreme to those who struggle with speech impediments and to those who work with them.
It is filled with poorly staged slapstick and potty humor. Artie gets hit in the crotch and throws up on the face of the kid who hit him. Barker pees onto a half-pipe, causing Tony Hawk(!) to crash. There’s an extended nose-picking sequence. The consequences of these moments — this movie is awful.
Parents should know that this film has extended and graphic potty and other bodily function humor, schoolyard language, comic peril, drinking, unrealistic portrayal of a “cure” for stuttering, and mild sexual references.
Family discussion: What are the biggest differences in the styles of parenting in this movie? Which one do you agree with? What did the three kids learn from their time with their grandparents?
If you like this, try: the “Wimpy Kid” movies