Sam Strange Remembers: PARENTAL GUIDANCE

Sam Strange Trolls Old People To Their Face While Taking All Their Money

There's a certain kind of stupid that can never be satisfyingly confronted because those who suffer from it have no idea what they look like to the rest of the world. It is a stupidity based solely around surface level logic an old rock n' roll lyrics, which imbues sufferers with a sense of intellectual superiority when they in fact sound to the rest of the world like smug retarded people.

It's called Old People stupid. Not all Old People have it. If you're reading this article, I'd say you're probably okay. But it is a rampant issue, especially around the holidays when everyone has to hang out with their parents. There are few things in this world more frustrating and irritating than smiling, "If you say so" ignorance.

My intention with Parental Guidance (originally titled Parental Hinderance) was to make a film that just beats the shit out of these people. But then I looked at my cast, and my PG rating, and I realized that with just a couple snips here and there, I'd actually made a movie for these assholes. When you give Billy Crystal a bunch of lines that are supposed to illustrate what a painfully unfunny character he is, only to find test audiences (all old people) laughing at every thing he says, it almost counts as a practical joke. That I get to take their stupid money is pretty much large scale con artistry.

So Parental Guidance is about this 70 year old minor league baseball announcer named Artie Decker. Our opening scene with Artie offers many confusing signifiers that betray this film's changed tone via editing. Arties performance as an announcer seems horrible. His jokes don't hit, the game is boring, and no one appears to be interested on either side of the microphone. Then, after the game ends, he leans back and says, "I love this job."

This leads directly to his being fired, not because he's boring and unfunny, but because he doesn't have Twitter or Facebook or any of those other things old people see as just another fad equivalent to pet rocks and bell bottoms. To you and I, it's obvious he's being fired for sucking. But to the film's intended audience, his career has just been killed by technology, which somehow became more important than human warmth and gentle jokes (such as one about the game's organist (who no one listening can actually see) being so old and slow that she seems dead).

Artie goes home to find his wife, Diane, participating in the latest stupid exercise craze: Pole dancing. Artie tells her, "If I wanted to marry a stripper, I'd get a job at Hooters" or some stupid shit like that and goes to bed.

See Artie has a dream, something that was a funny joke in the original version, but plays seriously here. All his life, Artie has longed to announce baseball games for the New York Giants. He figures since he was let go in the minor leagues for being too old fashioned, he might have a real shot of seeing his dream come true. It all relies on whether or not The Giants are a team known for their hatred of modernity and people who couldn't even hack it in the minors.

Meanwhile, we meet Artie and Diane's daughter Alice. Successful and smart, Alice and her husband Phil have read lots of literature on how to raise healthy children into good adults and do their best to implement that into their parenting. It's not rocket science or anything. Every doctor in the country disses sugar, so their kids don't have much sugar. They try to use positive words and respect their children's preferences however weird they may be. They also believe in seat belts.

Phil has designed a kind of iHouse called R-Type and it is up for a "Coolest shit ever" technology award. He wants Alice to go because they haven't been on a date for twelve year and his mistress is sick. Unable to get their normal babysitter for the weeklong trip, they resort to calling Artie and Diane.

The thing is, Artie and Diane aren't normally invited to Alice and Phil's house because they're so powerfully stupid and passively critical of their parenting choices. As a result, the mantle above the fireplace at their house is covered with pictures of Phil's parents, none of Alice's. Diane wants on the mantle. So they agree to watch the kids.

Everyone hates each other. Alice tells her kids ahead of time that they should laugh at Artie's awful jokes, but they overdo their forced cackles, and he can tell. The house scares Artie -- OH SHIT!

I forgot to tell you about how irritated Artie gets by airport security!

Anyway, the automated house scares Artie and he fights back by making fun of it, which to everyone living there sounds like an illiterate person making fun of reading.

They all go out to eat at a Pan-Asian restaurant with all natural ingredients. Artie is like, "Why not just call it Chinese food?" and refuses to listen when the whole family explains the difference as carefully as humanly possible. He then makes fun of the youngest kid's imaginary friend, which causes a lot of tension. But that's nothing compared to when Artie points at a black person and says, "Look!  A negro!"

This is kind of how it goes for a while. Artie does something that would have been fine fifty years ago and shares eye rolls with Diane when everyone overreacts about it.

This continues even after Phil and Alice go on their trip and Artie and Diane have to interact with non-family young people. Artie stops a whole little league baseball game because they have abolished score keeping, probably thanks to overemotional adult outbursts like the one Artie's doing right now.

The little girl in the family has been working hard to join a highly exclusive and famous musical academy. When her Russian instructor demands high performance standards without saying please, Diane threatens her (while also making fun of the fact that she's not from America).

One kid has a stutter, and Artie takes him to stutter class. Since the class involves self-expression simply through noise making rather than speaking, Artie gets instantly confused and calls the whole thing a ripoff to the instructor's face. Against her PhD and impressive resume, he claims to have profession expertise equal to hers thanks to his years as a minor league baseball announcer. To people in the audience this is supposed to be a valid point.

Before you know it, everything has gone to Hell. The kids are eating cake for the first time ever. One of them gets drunk off cough medicine. And the youngest kid's imaginary friend has been hit by a car. Furthermore, Artie and Diane take a walk down memory lane that begins with them harmonizing the entirity of "The Book of Love" and "Hang on Snoopy" and ends with them fucking on the cuttingboard island in the middle of the kitchen.

But that's nothing. See, Artie's daughter happens to work for the New York Giants as the team's "Vice President of Announcer Finding." When Artie hears this, he begins to formulate a plan. Because he formulates it in his head, I put text explaining the situation up on screen. In large print.

Artie uses his daughter's contacts to set up an audition announcing a skateboarding tournament. He comes dressed as a punk from The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon and pretends to know what skateboarding is. The little kid he brought with him pees all over the half pipe and kills Tony Hawk. People shouldn't be skateboarding anyway. It's dangerous.

This of course lands his ass in jail, which forces Alice and Phil to end their vacation early to bail him out. Artie begins to see that the world is just wrong and there's nothing he can do about it. He apologizes to his daughter and explains why old people like himself are so bad at parenting: "My father touched my butthole."

But then it turns out he and Diane did more good than they initially thought. The one kid has moved on from his imaginary friend to near-constant masturbation. The stuttering kid no longer has his stutter after developing a funny imitation of Artie's awful baseball announcing. The girl decides she does't want to be a world renowned viola player after all and would rather be a poet, or maybe a photographer.

We end the film with a second look at Alice and Phil's mantle place, now covered with family photos containing Artie and Diane. All the photos with Phil's parents have been thrown away. Because fuck those guys.

(three stars)