'Parental Guidance' a challenge for Bette Midler

The Fresno BeeDecember 27, 2012 

LOS ANGELES -- Along with just the regular challenges that come with acting, Bette Midler faced several other obstacles while shooting "Parental Guidance," the comedy about the clash of parenting styles that opened Christmas Day. There was bad weather, her frustration with technology and concerns about whether she should sing or not in the movie.

It took some help, but she conquered them all.

"The biggest problem was the weather," Midler says. "We were in Atlanta and we were supposed to be shooting in the summer and they pushed it back so we ended up shooting in the winter and we were all really cold the whole time because we were wearing these light summer clothes. One of the challenges was to keep warm."

It wasn't just the cold that caused problems. There was a tornado watch during the filming.

Midler says she and the rest of the cast got through the bad weather woes because of the upbeat nature of her co-star Billy Crystal and director Andy Fickman. She found great warmth in Fickman's attitude that created a fun set.

Crystal's character in "Parental Guidance" gets fired from his job as the voice of the Fresno Grizzlies because he can't keep up with modern technology. Tweets, to him, are the sound happy birds make.

Midler, who plays Crystal's wife, understands what it's like to feel lost in an ever-expanding world of electronic communication. She calls this brave new world of instant communication both a boon and horror show.

"You have to keep up and there are new apps every day. This is like being there when the car was being invented," Midler says. "It drives you nuts but some of it is quite interesting. I have been doing it for awhile, but I don't use everything on my computer."

Midler laughs and says when her husband tries to teach her some new application, he tends to keep his hand over the computer so she can't see anything he's doing. Her solution was to sign up to take computer classes and that's where you will find her at least three times a week -- unless she's off making a movie or performing.

If you cast Midler in a movie no one expects her to tweet, juggle cats, perform card tricks or make a bust of Ted Kennedy out of macaroni. She's the Divine Miss M, who has entertained millions with her booming vocal skills. That's what her fans want to hear.

But Midler fought the idea of crooning a number or two in "Parental Guidance."

"I didn't want it to look like that Bette Midler moment. I thought it would break the truth of the character," Midler says.

She was finally convinced to perform a couple of ditties by Crystal, who's been known to belt out a song or two. The pair sing a short duet and later Midler is joined by Marisa Tomei, who plays her daughter, for a tune. In all honesty, Tomei's more of a really weak backup singer but that makes the scene far more believable.

The good news is Midler was able to tweet about the musical numbers and the movie in much warmer climates.

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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