“Parental Guidance” director Andy Fickman says cast and crew members young and old could relate to the generational comedy on display, routinely sharing their own stories that echoed the film's comic bits. Fickman recalls his own mother turning to baby guru Dr. Spock's books on during his own childhood no matter how big or small the crisis.
Crystal and Midler took it from there, Fickman says.
Consider a throwaway moment early in the film when the grandparents take a call from Tomei's character. Crystal was supposed to simply press a button to put her on speaker phone. Crystal struggled with the buttons, and Midler quickly egged him on, turning a sequence meant simply to move the story along into one Fickman says drew praise from a studio executive during the dailies process.
“Can you do more of it?” the executive asked him.
Of course, working with two screen veterans took some understanding. Fickman once worked under Midler in her production company before moving on to direct films like "The Game Plan" and "She's the Man." So when enmeshed in a scene Midler would sometimes feel the urge to say, “cut” before her own director.
Fickman chuckles about the power struggle, comparing those moments to a football coaching trusting his team's game breakers.
“If you have a star quarterback, you assume there's plenty of time when [Patriots coach] Bill Belichick knows trusting Tom Brady is going to lead them to victory,” he says.
“Parental Guidance” is that rare film directly targeting older moviegoers. It's even got the support of the AARP. Today's movie goers likely know Crystal's voice from "Monster's, Inc." rather than "When Harry Met Sally" or his stint on "Saturday Night Live." Midler has focused more on her stage performing in recent years than any major film projects.
"I realized that one of the great opportunities with ['Parental Guidance'] was people getting to see them and discovering them," Fickman says.