Sexagenerian vs. Septugenarian Smackdown!

Billy Crystal, Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand are facing off for audiences this Thanksgiving and Christmas.

It's been a decade since Billy Crystal, 64, appeared in a lead role in a major studio film -- Analyze That in 2002. Bette Midler, 66, has made only indies of late (The Women, Then She Found Me). But this Thanksgiving, the two are back in a major way in 20th Century Fox's comedy Parental Guidance as grandparents who are at odds with their daughter, played by Marisa Tomei, over their different parenting styles when left to baby-sit. Keenly aware of the growing power of the silver-haired moviegoer, Fox and producer Peter Chernin were happy to fashion the film around them as leads (Crystal co-wrote the script) versus relegating them to supporting roles. "In my mind, this is the first comedy, at least in a long time, that shows grandparents as active, funny, involved, vital characters central to modern family life," says one person close to the project. Given that Guidance -- directed by Anne Fletcher (The Proposal) -- is a multigenerational family film, Fox has high hopes that it also will pull in turkey-stuffed parents and kids.

But Parental Guidance isn't the only studio holiday film counting on demo power: On Christmas Day, Paramount opens The Guilt Trip, starring Barbra Streisand, 70. The comedy, directed by Andy Fickman (The Tooth Fairy), marks Streisand's first lead role since 1996's The Mirror Has Two Faces (she had a supporting role in the Meet the Parents franchise). Similar to Parental Guidance, Guilt Trip pokes fun at the cultural differences across generations, this time as a mother goes on a road trip with her son (Seth Rogen). "Every parent can relate to the idea of going on a road trip with your child who is no longer a child," says an executive on the movie.

Is it possible that this much elderly goodness is more than the holiday market will bear and that audiences will choose Midler over Streisand? Probably not. But Hollywood has an unfortunate tendency to find something that works ... and beat it into the ground. Hopefully, come holidays 2013, they won't have killed the gray goose with the golden eggs.

comments powered by Disqus