These days there are very few movies that genuinely make you laugh – not just chuckle or smirk or smile but laugh heartily. There are even fewer movies that make such an impact on you that you cry – not just feel like crying but tear up. There are some movies that make you think about life but fewer ones that cause you to introspect about the good times, the bad times, how things were and how they could be. Billy Crystal’s movie Parental Guidance does all of these.
These days we build walls around us that are more self preservative in nature than anything else and are a function of the times we live in but what they do is make us cynical and distant. What a movie like Parental Guidance does is temporarily break down part of this self imposed wall and makes you feel. It gets you to sit back and enjoy the ups and downs that grandparents have to go through as they have to adjust to new age parenting which includes lack of disciplining and complete positivism. Yes it is sappy and formulaic and some of the stuff the characters do is ridiculously over the top especially when you look at it from an Indian context but these are minor glitches in an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable movie.
Two days before I watched the movie, I was on a cross country flight in the US on which they aired Parental Guidance (was one of those flights that did push services and not on-demand entertainment). I overheard two elderly people sitting next to each other talk about how hilarious the movie was and how one of them was going to babysit her grand kids and how a lot of the same stuff happens to her all the time. That put it on my need to watch list.
Four days before I watched the movie, I was talking to colleagues of mine who have settled in the US and we were discussing how they balance their commitments and expectations from their family and friends in India with successful careers and their lives in the US. One very interesting aspect of our conversation was how they manage to keep their kids involved with their parents who are settled in India. I was told the story of a middle aged Indian in the US who bumped into his (Indian) neighbours father while out on a walk and asked him how he was enjoying his stay in the US when he was rudely told “These days your generation only wants to spend time with us when you have kids .....”.