Parenthood (film)

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Parenthood (film) poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ron Howard
Produced by Brian Grazer
Screenplay by Lowell Ganz
Babaloo Mandel
Story by Lowell Ganz
Babaloo Mandel
Ron Howard
Music by Randy Newman
Cinematography Donald McAlpine
Edited by Daniel P. Hanley
Mike Hill
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • August 2, 1989 (1989-08-02)
Running time
124 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $31 million[1]
Box office $126 million[2]

Parenthood is a 1989 American comedy-drama film with an ensemble cast that includes Steve Martin, Tom Hulce, Rick Moranis, Martha Plimpton, Joaquin Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, Jason Robards, Mary Steenburgen, and Dianne Wiest.

The film was directed by Ron Howard, who assisted in developing the story with screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. Much of it is based on the family and parenting experiences of Howard, Ganz, Mandel, and producer Brian Grazer, who have at least 17 children among the four of them. Principal photography was filmed in and around Orlando, Florida with some scenes filmed at the University of Florida. It was nominated for two Academy Awards: Dianne Wiest for Best Supporting Actress and Randy Newman for Best Song for "I Love to See You Smile".

The film was adapted into a NBC television series on two separate occasions, in 1990 and again in 2010. While the first series was cancelled after one season, the second series ran for six seasons.


Gil Buckman (Steve Martin) is an anxious sales executive in the St. Louis area. When he finds out that his eldest son, Kevin (Jasen Fisher), has emotional problems and needs therapy, and that his other two children, Taylor (Alisan Porter) and Justin, may have issues as well, he begins to blame himself and questions his abilities as a father. When Gil's wife, Karen (Mary Steenburgen), announces she is pregnant with their fourth child on the same day he quit his sales job, he is unsure whether he can cope.

Gil is also concerned and convinced that the financial burdens of another child and office politics at work are turning him into the distant workaholic he hated his own father, Frank (Jason Robards), for being. Stressed by family and work issues, he opens up to Frank about his doubts as a parent. Frank tells him that he worries too much, and they have a reconciliation of sorts with Frank telling Gil, that fear and apprehension for one's children never ends. When a hired cowboy character fails to show up at Kevin's birthday party, Gil dresses up as a cowboy himself and hilariously understudies the role.

Gil's sister, Helen (Dianne Wiest), is a divorced bank manager whose dentist ex-husband wants nothing to do with their kids, Garry (Joaquin Phoenix) and Julie (Martha Plimpton).

Garry, who has just entered puberty, is shy, friendless, and likes to be alone in his room with a mysterious paper bag. At first Helen worries that it contains drugs or alcohol, but it actually contains porn videos and Playboy magazines.

Julie is still in high school. In spite of her high SAT scores, she is not interested in her education. She and her slacker boyfriend, Tod Higgins (Keanu Reeves), get married, ultimately resulting in her becoming pregnant and him moving into Helen's house. When Helen asks Tod to talk with Garry, he is able to reassure Garry that his obsession with girls and sex is normal for a boy his age, something that is a relief to Garry. This also increases Helen's respect for Tod. Eventually she supports his and Julie's relationship to the extent that when Julie wants to break up with him, Helen orders her to face her fears and to support him. She also begins to date Garry's biology teacher.

Gil's other sister, Susan (Harley Jane Kozak), is a middle school teacher married to Nathan Huffner (Rick Moranis), an intelligent scientist. They have a precocious daughter, Patty (Ivyann Schwan). Susan wants more children, but he is more interested in Patty's cognitive development. Patty, while intelligent, has difficulty relating to other children. Susan lashes out by compromising her diaphragm as a plan to get pregnant against Nathan's wishes. She eventually gets so impatient that she leaves him. He eventually comes to one of her classes and serenades her to win her back, promising her he will try to change. She agrees to move back home.

Larry (Tom Hulce), Gil's brother, is the black sheep of the family, but is Frank's favorite. Rather than settle into a career, he has drifted through life trying to cash in on get-rich-quick schemes. He has recently shown up, along with his son, Cool (Alex Burrall), who was the result of a brief affair with a Las Vegas showgirl, and asks to borrow money from Frank. It soon becomes apparent that he needs it to pay off his gambling debts, or else he must pay with his life. Frank is disappointed, but still loves him and tries to help. Frank refuses to bail Larry out completely, but offers to teach him the family business so he can take over for Frank (who offers to put off retirement) and use the income to pay off the debt. Larry instead deserts his son and leaves for Chile never to return, and Frank agrees to look after Cool.

The family is reunited at the hospital when Helen gives birth to a girl. Frank embraces Cool. Tod and Julie are together, raising their son. Susan is visibly pregnant. Gil and Karen are now the parents of four, and his boss has rehired him.



Box office[edit]

The film opened at #1 in its opening weekend, earning $10 million. It eventually grossed over $100 million domestically and $126 million worldwide.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

Parenthood received critical acclaim. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 92% "Certified Fresh" rating, based on 53 reviews, with an average rating of 7.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Bolstered by a delightful cast, Parenthood is a funny and thoughtfully crafted look at the best and worst moments of family life that resonates broadly."[3] On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 82 out of 100, based on 17 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim."[4]

It was also nominated by the American Film Institute for their 100 Years... 100 Laughs series.[5]

Television adaptations[edit]

The film was adapted twice to TV: as a 1990 series and again in 2010.

2010 series[edit]

In April 2009, filming began on a new television adaptation loosely based on the movie.[6] Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia play the parents, joined by Peter Krause, Mae Whitman, Erika Christensen, Dax Shepard, Lauren Graham and Monica Potter.[7]


  1. ^ "Box Office Information for Parenthood". The Wrap. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Parenthood (1989)". Box Office Mojo. 2007-03-05. Retrieved 2010-01-07. 
  3. ^ "Parenthood". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2016-03-19. 
  4. ^ "Parenthood". Metacritic. Retrieved 2016-03-19. 
  5. ^ "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs Nominees". Retrieved January 26, 2014.
  6. ^ "NBC Order Pilot Of Parenthood @ Unreality Primetime". 2009-01-29. Retrieved 2009-05-02. 
  7. ^ "Monica Potter Joins NBC's Parenthood". 2009-04-20. Retrieved 2009-05-02. 

External links[edit]