|Meet the Parents
2000 - PG-13 - NA Mins.
|Director: Jay Roach
|Producer: Jay Roach, Jane Rosenthal, Nancy Tenenbaum
|Written By: Jim Herzfeld, John Hamburg
|Starring: Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, James Rebhorn
|Review by: David Trier
Once again the free screening fairy prodded me unwillingly down the cinema aisle and forced me to watch a movie I had no interest in and ultimately enjoyed. Life is basically good.
Male nurse, Greg Focker (Ben Stiller), wants to marry Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo) but he has to meet her parents first. Her spacey mom (Blythe Danner) is easy enough to please but Jack, her father, an ex-CIA (Robert De Niro), refuses to like him. A series of stupid mistakes and fibs consistently force Greg into awkward situations until he's kicked out of the parents' house and maybe his girlfriend's life. But realizing Greg's actions were all with the intent to seek Jack's approval so he can marry his daughter brings us back to a happy ending.
Meet The Parents is really more of a pitch than a story. What if Ben Stiller had to meet his girlfriend's parents and the dad was a hard-assed De Niro? We'll make millions! Well, that's true, but it may leave more refined moviegoers anxious for substance. Stiller is a very talented comic actor, but he falls prey to obvious Stiller-isms that can get irritating. Here he's playing the exact same neurotic Jewish romantic mess from There's Something About Mary, Keeping The Faith, Flirting With Disaster, etc., etc. It's funny, but I hope this movie puts that character to rest (although I heard talk of a sequel). We all know what a gift to cinema De Niro has been, but it's debatable as to whether or not he should be doing comedy. He's funny in this, but his talent is pretty much wasted and he's really more in his element playing real people. Jack Byrnes is a characiture (as was De Niro's character in Analyze This). But the whole movie is farcical and blissfully shallow. Just good old-fashioned mindless entertainment.
Stiller and De Niro have a great comic chemistry and each character in the film has something to offer. Teri Polo brings an appeal and strength not often found in the cute blondes that normally book this kind of role. Owen Wilson is especially creepy and likeable as the perfect ex-boyfriend. The film has lots of great gags at the expense of upper class New Englanders. There's also plenty of fun to be had with Greg's last name, Focker. Directing the two Austin Powers films must have instilled Jay Roach with the most important rule for directing comedy - timing. The parts of this film that made me literally laugh out loud were exceptional because of their timing, of the actors as well as the editors.
In the end, despite it's commercial convenience, Meet The Parents is good fun. It offers genuine chuckles and a few ha-ha's.