Parenthood (film)

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

Parenthood (film) poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRon Howard
Screenplay byLowell Ganz
Babaloo Mandel
Story byLowell Ganz
Babaloo Mandel
Ron Howard
Produced byBrian Grazer
CinematographyDonald McAlpine
Edited byDaniel P. Hanley
Mike Hill
Music byRandy Newman
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • August 2, 1989 (1989-08-02)
Running time
124 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million[1]
Box office$126 million[2]

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 an NBC television series in 1990 and 2010. While the first series was canceled after one season, the second series ran for six seasons.


Gil Buckman, a St. Louis sales executive, is trying to balance his family and his career. When he finds out that his eldest son, Kevin, has emotional problems and needs therapy and that his two younger children, Taylor and Justin, both have issues as well, he begins to blame himself and questions his abilities as a father. When his wife, Karen, becomes pregnant with their fourth child, he is unsure whether he can handle it.

Gil is also frustrated and fearful that the financial burdens of another child and office politics at work are turning him into the detached workaholic he despised in his own father, Frank. Humbled by family and work issues, Gil 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 worry for one's children never ends. Gil is finally able to accept the life he has chosen after his elderly grandmother tells him the story of her first experience riding a roller coaster when she was young and was amazed at all of the different emotions she experienced compared to the merry-go-round which was simple and bland.

Gil's older sister, Helen, is a divorced bank manager whose wealthy dentist ex-husband wants nothing to do with their kids, Garry and Julie, aside from small child support payments, and spends more time with his own second family. Garry, who has just entered puberty, is quiet and withdrawn and likes to be alone in his room with a mysterious paper bag. At first, Helen worries that it contains drugs or alcohol, but later finds it actually contains pornography.

Julie is still in high school but is not interested in her education. She and her boyfriend, Tod Higgins, get married, she becomes pregnant, and Tod moves into Helen's house. Helen asks Tod to talk with Garry believing he would be more comfortable confiding to another male. Tod reassures Garry that his obsession with girls and sex is normal for a boy his age, to Garry's relief. This also increases Helen's respect for Tod, especially when Tod reveals his own past involving his abusive father and his determination not to follow the same path. Eventually, she supports Tod and Julie's relationship to the extent that when Julie wants to break up with Tod, Helen orders her to face her fears and work on their relationship. Helen also starts dating Garry's science teacher, giving Garry a father figure he has long been without.

Gil and Helen's younger sister, Susan, is a middle school teacher married to scientist and researcher Nathan Huffner. They have a precocious daughter, Patty. Susan wants more children, but Nathan is more interested in Patty's cognitive development. Susan lashes out by eating junk food and compromises her diaphragm as a plan to get pregnant against Nathan's wishes. She eventually gets so frustrated that she leaves Nathan, who 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.

The youngest, Larry, 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 biracial son, Cool (the result of a brief affair with a Las Vegas showgirl), asking to borrow money from Frank. It soon becomes apparent that he needs it to pay off gambling debts ($26,000 worth, equivalent to $60,000 in 2022[3]) or he will be killed. Frank is disillusioned but still loves him and tries to help. Frank refuses to bail him out completely but offers to teach him the family business so he can take over for Frank who has to put off retirement to pay off the debt. However, Larry instead suggests another get-rich-quick scheme which involves him going to Chile. Frank agrees to look after Cool knowing that Larry will most likely never return, and the fact that Larry will not take care of Cool.

The family is reunited at the hospital when Helen gives birth to a daughter. Frank holds Cool who is shown to have been fully embraced by the family, and thriving. Tod and Julie are together, raising their son. Susan is visibly pregnant. Gil and Karen are now the parents of four.



Box officeEdit

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 receptionEdit

The film received critical acclaim. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a "Certified Fresh" approval rating of 92% based on 59 reviews, with an average score of 7.50/10. The website'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".[4] On Metacritic, the film received a score of 82 based on 17 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[5] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[6]


Award Category Nominee(s) Result
20/20 Awards Best Supporting Actress Dianne Wiest Nominated
Best Original Song "I Love to See You Smile"
Music and Lyrics by Randy Newman
Academy Awards[7] Best Supporting Actress Dianne Wiest Nominated
Best Original Song "I Love to See You Smile"
Music and Lyrics by Randy Newman
American Comedy Awards[8][9] Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture (Leading Role) Steve Martin Nominated
Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Rick Moranis Won
Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Dianne Wiest Nominated
Artios Awards[10] Outstanding Achievement in Feature Film Casting – Comedy Jane Jenkins and Janet Hirshenson Won
ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards Top Box Office Films Randy Newman Won
Golden Globe Awards[11] Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Steve Martin Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Dianne Wiest Nominated
Best Original Song – Motion Picture "I Love to See You Smile"
Music and Lyrics by Randy Newman
Grammy Awards[12] Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television Nominated
Tokyo International Film Festival Tokyo Grand Prix Ron Howard Nominated
Young Artist Awards[13] Best Family Motion Picture – Comedy Won
Best Young Actor Starring in a Motion Picture Leaf Phoenix Nominated
Best Young Actor Supporting Role in a Motion Picture Jasen Fisher Nominated
Outstanding Performance by an Actor Under 9 Years of Age Zachary La Voy Nominated

It was also nominated by the American Film Institute for their 100 Years...100 Laughs series.[14]

Television adaptationsEdit

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

1990 seriesEdit

Parenthood was one of several failed movie-to-TV adaptations in the 1990–91 season, also including Baby Talk on ABC's TGIF (a follow up to Look Who's Talking), Ferris Bueller on NBC and Uncle Buck on CBS.[15] It ran for 12 episodes and was not renewed for a second season.[16]

2010 seriesEdit

A new television adaptation loosely based on the film began to air in 2010.[17] Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia play the parents, joined by Peter Krause, Mae Whitman, Erika Christensen, Dax Shepard, Lauren Graham and Monica Potter.[18] It ran for six seasons and ended in January 2015.[19]


  1. ^ "Box Office Figures". Los Angeles Times. May 5, 1990. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Parenthood (1989)". Box Office Mojo. 2007-03-05. Retrieved 2010-01-07.
  3. ^ "Inflation Calculator".
  4. ^ "Parenthood". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 25 July 2022.
  5. ^ "Parenthood". Metacritic. Retrieved 2016-03-19.
  6. ^ "Cinemascore: Movie Title Search". 2018-12-20. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20. Retrieved 2020-07-27.
  7. ^ "The 62nd Academy Awards (1990) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on July 6, 2011. Retrieved October 17, 2011.
  8. ^ "AMERICAN COMEDY AWARDS". The Washington Post. 1990-03-18. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2020-07-01.
  9. ^ "American Comedy Awards winners announced Saturday". UPI, United Press International, Inc. 1990-03-11. Retrieved 2020-07-01.
  10. ^ "1990 Artios Awards". Casting Society of America. Retrieved 2020-06-28.
  11. ^ "Parenthood – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  12. ^ "1989 Grammy Award Winners". Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  13. ^ "11th Annual Youth In Film Awards". Archived from the original on 2014-04-09. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  14. ^ "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs Nominees". American Film Institute (AFI). Retrieved January 26, 2014.
  15. ^ Carter, Bill (1990-12-17). "Hear About a Film That Became A Hit TV Series? You're Not Alone". The New York Times.
  16. ^ "Parenthood (1990)". Retrieved 2020-07-27.
  17. ^ "NBC Order Pilot Of Parenthood". 2009-01-29. Archived from the original on 2009-05-09. Retrieved 2009-05-02.
  18. ^ "Monica Potter Joins NBC's Parenthood". MovieWeb. 2009-04-20. Retrieved 2009-05-02.
  19. ^ Zemler, Emily (January 8, 2015). "Lauren Graham Says Her Character's Ending on Parenthood Is 'Satisfying'". Time. Retrieved 2021-10-12.

External linksEdit