It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Ron Howard's "Parenthood" is a delicate balancing act between comedy and truth, a movie that contains a lot of laughter and yet is more concerned with character than punch lines. It's the best kind of comedy, where we recognize the truth of what's happening even while we're smiling, and where we eventually acknowledge that there is a truth in comedy that serious drama never can quite reach.
The movie is about a lot of parents and children - four generations, from an ancient matriarch to a 3-year-old. Because almost everyone in this movie has both parents and children, almost everyone in the movie is both a child and a parent, and much of the film's strength comes from the way it sees each generation in reaction to its parents' notions of parenthood. The complexity of the movie - there are a dozen or more important characters - must have seemed daunting on the screenplay level, and yet the film's first strength is its smart, nimble screenplay, which also is very wise.
"Parenthood" stars Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen as the parents of three children, with another on the way. Life is not easy for them, although they are surrounded by all of the artifacts of middle-class suburbia, such as a nice home and new uniforms for the Little League team. Martin is engaged in warfare at the office, where he wants to be made a partner, and yet he resists spending too much time at work because he wants to be a good father - a better father than his father (Jason Robards), who was cold and distant.
We can see this for ourselves when we meet the Robards character.