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This story first appeared in the Aug. 23-Sept. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
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). On Christmas Day, both are back in a major way in 20th Century Fox’s all-audience 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-write 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 Parental Guidance — directed by Andy Fickman — is a multigenerational family film, Fox has high hopes that it also will pull in parents and kids.
But Parental Guidance isn’t the only Christmas Day film counting on the graying demo power: On Dec. 25, Paramount opens The Guilt Trip, starring Barbra Streisand, 70. The comedy, directed by Anne Fletcher, 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 between the generations as a mother goes on a road trip with her adult son, played by Seth Rogen, who brings his own audience to the table. “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 film.
Is it possible that this much elderly goodness is more than the holiday market will bear and that audiences will have to choose over Crystal/Midler and Streisand? Probably not. But Hollywood has an unfortunate tendency to find something that works…and beat in into the ground. Hopefully, come holidays 2013, they won’t have killed the gray goose with the golden eggs.
The print version of the article incorrectly stated that Parental Guidance was opening on Thanksgiving.