|Meet the Parents
review by Dan Lybarger, 22 September 2000
Because of the
inherent terror involved in meeting oneís future in-laws, the
comic possibilities are endless. Somehow director Jay Roach, whoís
behind the Austin Powers
flicks, almost blows it in Meet
the Parents. With Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro in the leads,
itís a canít-miss proposition. But a needless reliance on toilet
gags almost derails a simple but potent setup.
Stiller stars as
Greg Focker (it takes no effort to imagine what the writers come up
with for that surname), a male nurse whoís deeply attached to an
elementary school teacher named Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo). Greg would
like to use the long weekend to pop the question to his beloved.
But, Gregís affections and his sanity are put to the test when he
joins her for a trip from Chicago to Upstate New York to meet her
parents, Jack (DeNiro) and Dina (Blythe Danner).
The trip begins
disastrously when the airlines lose Gregís bag. If that situation
in itself wasnít bad enough, the bag contained Pamís two-carat
engagement ring. The two of them arrive safely at their destination,
and Jack and Dina live in a nicely furnished, two-story house.
Still, something seems wrong. Maybe itís the way that Jack has
trained his beloved cat to use the toilet. Another possibility could
be that Jack almost violently dislikes people who prefer dogs over
cats. The fellow also writes morbid attempts at poetry and has
installed an elaborate surveillance system throughout his house.
Gregís discomfort mushrooms to the point that he feels compelled
to lie about himself. This is a stupid move because it increases
Jackís suspicions about Greg.
discovers that Jack has strong reasons for distrusting anyone, much
less a potential suitor. Jackís hair trigger temper and constant
paranoia arise from spending thirty years as a CIA interrogator. If
surviving Jackís third degree werenít enough, Greg finds himself
enlisted to help out with the wedding for Pamís sister and
enduring the discomfort of hanging out with Pamís old flame, a
chronic overachiever named Kevin (Owen Wilson, from Shanghai
Just about all of these factors can
lead to good nervous chuckles, but Roach and screenwriters James
Herzfeld and John Hamburg (working from a story by Greg Glienna and
Mary Ruth Clarke) handle the story with the subtlety of a nuclear
explosion. There's a lot of choice gags. For example, try to keep a
straight face as Greg, a Jew who obviously spends little time in the
synagogue, tries to say grace before a meal. Nonetheless, itís
much more fun watching Stiller and DeNiro riffing off each other
than it is to see a seemingly endless series of sequences devoted to
a faulty septic tank and its impact on the home. To be fair, some of
the excess works in spite of itself.;
the sight of Stiller in a Speedo is hysterical despite the
actorís buff physique. As it stands, Meet
the Parents is an entertaining comic nightmare, but like most
bad dreams, it disappears once the lights come up.
Robert De Niro
Mary Ruth Clarke