Billed as a "dramedy," this French Canadian film sometimes struggles to balance its tone between comedy and drama, but while the humor lightens the mood, its more serious scenes and ideas give it life.
Some of the comedy in The Guide to the Perfect Family hits its mark, most involving overprotective helicopter parents and their entitled results. A mom can barely balance the body of her large 5-year-old on her lap while breastfeeding him; parents demand specialized individual treatment from a teacher; a dad ends a conflictive card-guessing game alone with a card of Hitler on his head, unbeknownst to him; a pumpkin spice-chugging millennial employee finds actually working at his job too emotionally taxing.
The fact that many of these gags are so goofy do work to lighten the overall mood of the film and make it more approachable, but in doing so they also threaten to undermine the very serious message it aims to convey.
That message is embodied in the father-daughter pair played exceptionally well by Louis Morissette and Emilie Bierre. A couple of scenes involving just the two of them are the film's highlights, one where they fight over what music to listen to on a car ride and another where their resentment and anger floats to the surface during an outing on a lake. We see the world through both of their eyes, as well as through their social media worlds, and it's possible viewers will sympathize with one or the other depending on their own station in life.
Another dialogue involving a grandfather comparing his parenting style with his two grown sons, both also now fathers, brings in a third generation's view. What's more important than whether any one generation is actually right about the best way to parent is how they find common ground and see each other's perspective that counts.
That's a lesson parents and teens alike can take away.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.