A parent trap.
Louis has a problem. Actually, Louis has several problems, all of which orbit a giant supernova problem. If you asked teenagers to say what a parent could do to most embarrass a teenage son or daughter, what do you think they’d say? “Friend” them on facebook? Wear the wrong clothes in an incorrect manner? Use modern slang without irony? Indeed: welcome to Louis’ world.
Louis’ parents want to be cool, and ‘cool,’ for them, means acting like a teenager. This would be bad enough for any adolescent, but Louis has the added pressure of being the new kid in his school. He’s also struggling with a nascent comedy career, an unavoidable history exam and the fact that his best friend and agent, Maddy, has a pretentious new boyfriend.
Pete Johnson’s My Parents Are Out Of Control is the follow-up to the successful How To Train Your Parents. In the latter Louis merely had to deal with his mum and dad pressuring him to concentrate more on academics and less on his brand of one-line comedy. In this latest instalment things are many times worse. As with the onset of a deadly virus, the first symptoms are nothing too scary. Mum and dad adopt teenage slang and the odd but crucial accompanying hand gestures; “safe,” “sick,” “wicked” and the like. Soon, though, come the dreaded crimes against fashion and facebook.
It’s standard fare in kids’ fiction for characters to display polished wit at a speed that would impress Oscar Wilde. In Louis’ case it does at least fit his character. Even as his parents plumb new nadirs of cringe-worthy behaviour he is always ready with a wry comment or witty remark. When it comes time to consider getting a girlfriend, though, will the cat get Louis’ tongue?
Where this animated and amusing story succeeds is in the combination of superficial embarrassment and teenage awkwardness and the more complex issues of family unity and adult employment. As Louis discovers, for parents, life isn’t always a barrel of laughs.
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