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MEET THE PARENTS / (2000) *** (out of four)
By Blake French:
The main character in "Meet The Parents" is a Chicago-based male nurse, Greg Focker (pronounced just how it is spelled) who realizes how unlucky a person can be. He is about to propose to his schoolteacher girlfriend, Pam (Teri Polo), when her sister Debbie (Nicole Dehuff) calls and explains that her new fiancé, Dr. Bob Banks (Tom McCarthy), received a blessing from her father before he asked the question. This information makes Greg reconsider his method of choice, and instead jumps at the opportunity to meet Pam's overprotective parents when they fly to the east coast two weeks later to arrange Debbie's wedding.
At the airport, the attendants loose Greg's parcels. Thus he arrives without any luggage. Once at Pam's parent's house, they exchange greetings and aquatint themselves with each other. Pam's parents, Jack and Dina Byrnes (Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner) learn about Greg's unusual last name, that he does not like cats, and is a male nurse, all facts that do not settle well with Pam's father. Greg does manage to gift Jack with a pleasant supply of rare flowers. However, even though Pam explained to Greg that her dad is in the hobby of rare flowers, he does not seem too impressed.
Even More complications ensue, especially when Greg learns of Jack's peculiar behaviors and suspicious gadgets, such as a polygraph and hidden cameras placed in every room of the house, as well as meeting Pam's brother, Denny (Jon Abrahams), and Debbie's soon to be in laws, Larry (James Rebhorn), and Linda Banks (Phillis George), and Pam's wealthy ex-fiancée, Kevin Rawley (Owen Wilson). Soon, Greg's chances of receiving Jack's permission to wed his daughter become less and less probable as his bad luck only manages to increase.
The film introduces Greg and Pam with silly quirks that come up later in the story. Pam's parents are also quite the treat; the movie does not go over the top but portrays them with serious humor and charismatic wit. It is De Niro and Stiller who make the movie, however. They form an very effective comedic chemistry, even more amusing than the likable shtick between De Niro and Billy Crystal in "Analyze This." The filmmakers take advantage of the phenomenal tension between Greg and Jack, and place them in one hilarious situation after another.
While outrageous and at times explosively funny, director Jay Roach takes the plot seriously. His previous films, including the Austin Powers films and "Mystery, Alaska," have had trouble with taking anything seriously. But "Meet The Parents" has emotional connections, develops solid empathy for Greg, and we really believe he has something precious that can be lost: Pam.
The movie does not completely develop romantic chemistry between Ben Stiller and Teri Polo, thus there were times when I simply did not believe the two were really in love. The relationship sometimes feels trite and contrived. There are also important plot nuggets left only partially examined: Jack's pot-head son, who could have contributed a lot more to the drug related material, is left as a plot device to provide another string of conflicts within Jack and Greg.
I really enjoyed the whimsical performances and opportune casting. Ben Stiller reprises his "There's Something About Mary" role, with cute charm and the obscured zany flippancy. Robert De Niro is perfect in a role he was born to play, with serious attitude that results in the main portion of the film's funny moments. Blythe Danner is also charming in a kind of role that is becoming all too usual for her.
"Meet the Parents" is one of the funniest movies of the year. It gives audiences with a solid story that does not interfere with the comic material, but contributes to it. The top notch performances and lively direction also raise the film to a higher level. During a year in which effective comedies are an endangered species, "Meet The Parents" is a landmark achievement in light entertainment.
Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) is a male nurse, poised to propose to the
woman he loves, Pam (Teri Polo) but the right thing to do would be to
ask her father's permission first. During a weekend of getting to know
them, he manages to make a strong impression; for all the wrong
reasons. Her father (Robert De Niro) isn't quite what Greg has been led
to believe, and right from the start he seems to have it in for his
De Niro and Stiller play off each other brilliantly, and both of them give fine comic performances, with a surprising level of depth for comedy characters. This film is packed with slick gags, hilarious scenes and it has a really fun story; it's a comedy film that you don't want to miss.
Our story begins when a male nurse named Greg Focker (Stiller) is about
to propose to his girlfriend, Pam (Teri Polo); unfortunately, things
come to worst and before Greg can say, "Will you marry me?" he finds
out that Pam's father, Jack (Robert De Niro) approved of Pam's sister's
fiancé because he asked Jack's permission to marry her first. Taken
aback, Greg decides to wait until tomorrow, whence they are going to
meet Pam's parents, and ask Jack for approval before proposing to Pam.
Should be a piece of cake, right? Wrong. Pam's mother (Blythe Danner)
is very nice, but herein lies the problem: Not only is it apparent from
the start that Pam's plant-expert father is not really a plant-expert
(as Greg learns after Jack doesn't seem to recognize a plant Greg gives
to him--one of the rarest plants in the world), but it turns out Jack
is really in the CIA and was a "human lie detector," as Pam herself
puts it. In fact, Jack even gives Greg a lie detector test in one scene
to see if he liked the dinner earlier in the evening. "Yes," Greg
replies, to see the needle jumping. "Well, it was a little rare for my
tastes, maybe." Greg, desperately seeking approval (and nervous as
ever), seems to unintentionally cause mayhem in his possible
parents-to-be's home. Nerves shot like a drug addict, Greg is the
definition of a nervous wreck, and all his problems seem to escalate
more and more until a funny-if-sappy comedic showdown.
You know how sometimes you are really nervous, but try to hide the fact? You seem to keep your cool, until you do something, then all your nervousness explodes and you start knocking over things, saying stupid things--single-handedly DOING stupid things that you just never do? And then you look around and everyone is looking at you like you are some sort of freak? Well, that's how it is with Greg's character in "Meet the Parents"--he is so easy to identify with. Just like all of us, we want to keep our cool and impress people--but once we lose it, the coolness seems to slip farther and farther away from our grip until we are klutzes on feet. For Greg's character, small things turn bigger and bigger and bigger--from knocking over the remains of Jack's mother (and having a cat go to the bathroom on the remains), to setting the house on fire and busting the septic tank. Situations seem to escalate farther and farther out of control and they just keep getting worse and worse.
In one scene, Greg tries to impress everyone while playing volleyball in a pool. His team is losing because of him. "Get up and hit the ball," Jack says to him. So the next time the ball comes around to Greg, he jumps up and smacks the ball with all his might, sending it flying towards...Pam's sister (whose wedding is the next day), shattering her nose. Greg lands back in the pool and seems to be happy, until he realizes he smacked his sister-in-law-to-be in the nose. Then everyone looks at him like he's an insensitive idiot.
Things like that have happened to me countless times, and that is why I can so easily identify with Greg. People are yelling at Greg to do something, and when he finally does it, it backfires and everyone looks at him like he's stupid, even though he did exactly what he was told.
That's the kind of thing that makes this movie so great--not only is it extremely funny, but we can easily identify with the main character countless times throughout the film. That is, perhaps, the best thing about this comedy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With a hero called Gaylord M. Focker, you might expect this to be a film
snickering silliness. It IS snickeringly silly - the soon-to-be-immortal
champagne/urn scene; the cat-milking discussion; the skimpy swimming
the volleyball bloodbath; the flushing cat; the wooden altar
the septic tank spray etc.; all good, healthy, daft, slapstick, prurient,
scatalogical stuff. And while I in no way condone Greg's vile rage
at the air-stewardess, it is very funny.
But, 'Meet the Parents' has the emotional truths that turn it from being merely a funny film into a comedy classic. Anyone who has ever been married or about to will recognise the horrible accuracy of this film. My own father-in-law is remarkably like Jack Byrnes here; not that he is an ex-CIA spycatcher (at least, I don't think so); but in his ability to intimidate, humiliate, terrorise, impose his power.
My point is that Jack's profession is only a comic exaggeration of what all fathers- or mothers-in-law are like, figures terrified of losing their children, defending them like animals in the wild, convinced that a prospective so-and-so will never be good enough for our baby, not even thinking that neither might they have been; refusing to admit they are getting old, that they are losing power and control.
It's only logical that the monster in-law from hell should be obsessive about power and control. His domestic panopticon is a superb metaphor for extended family life, the idea of being judged, marked on 'success' or 'suitability' ratings, your every personal, financial, health etc. problem a matter for family investigation. Bitter, moi? Greg should be lucky Jack isn't married to Monica Geller's mom.
But the film doesn't simplistically pit Capraesque good guy Greg against shady CIA man Jack. If Jack is all about control, then so is Greg. The film has one of the best musical openings in recent memory ('if you're gentle and sweet, you're an idiot...'), but the opening montage is more sinister, as a faceless cameraman takes home movies of a pretty blonde. Pam is the true victim of this film, the prize in a macho battle of wits, the female bystander in the great masculine generational conflict, as Jack proves he's not past it, and Greg proves he's not a loser. Those voyeuristic home movies echo Jack's surveillance cameras and perform the same function, to watch, to control, to limit (just as Kevin remembers Pam by his photographs and his erotic memories).
One is heartened by the ironies of the ending, not just Jack breaking his word, determined to keep up his power games as he watches his CCTV's filming the most private places, where people are at their most vulnerable and exposed (revealing, truthfully, that the in-law struggle never ends)
The film also has some cutting things to say about the lingering anti-semitism in WASPish society; nothing much has changed since 'Auntie Mame'.
It is wonderful to see Robert de Niro finally getting a decent comedy. He has always been hilarious in 'straight' roles ('Mean Streets', 'Taxi Driver', 'Raging Bull' etc.), but his comic vehicles have spluttered to a halt. He is genius here, his menace, his gestures, facial contortions, way of throwing out a line like he's garrotting it - bliss. If 'Parents' finally lacks the pull of a film like 'There's Something About Mary', then it's probably the nature of the plot. 'Mary' had an active plot, it was a quest, necessitating narrative and character development, and thus more audience commitment. 'Parents' is purely destructive, as Jack tries to destroy a love that's already been built up. Sadly, this scenario is much truer.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Meet the Parents is one of the funniest films this decade and it is not a spoof. I was laughing so hard, soda came bursting out of my nose. Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller did such an amazing job. I was not bored of this movie at all. Gaylord Focker and his girlfriend, Pam are set to become engaged. But to do so, they must travel to Pam's parents. It turns out that Pam's father, Jack is a CIA agent and dislikes Gaylord a lot. Gaylord did many hilarious things which includes losing a rare cat. The ironic thing is that Pam's sister got engaged and will be married....when and if Gaylord can get his act together. The acting is wonderful. You usually don't see De Niro doing movies like this. He did absolutely amazing. Ben Stiller did just as good. If you want to see this movie, get ready to laugh. This movie is full of laughs! I rate this movie 10/10.
Most of the funny moments in 'Meet the Parents' involve painful scenes with
Ben Stiller. He plays Greg Focker, a male nurse who loves Pam Byrnes (Teri
Polo). He wants to marry her with her father's permission. He hasn't met her
parents yet. The movie shows us the weekend where Stiller meets the parents.
Pam's father is Jack (Robert De Niro) and her mother is Dina (Blythe
Danner). The more Greg tries to impress the parents, especially Jack who is
a former CIA-agent, the more he humiliates himself. Not only with his
actions, also with his words and stupid lies to look better.
Stiller is perfect in this kind of role. We already saw that, especially in 'There's Something About Mary'. The more he gets in trouble, the more painful it gets, the better Stiller gets and the more we laugh. There is also a fine little part from Owen Wilson as Pam's former lover. Stiller and Wilson have made a lot of films together and for some reason their scenes always work, they at least make you smile. De Niro doesn't try very hard to be a strict person who doesn't give Greg a chance and therefore succeeds even better. The way he slowly gets harder and harder on Greg is good for a new laugh every time. 'Meet the Parents', directed by Jay Roach who also directed the 'Austin Powers' trilogy, is a fine comedy with a lot of sequences where you might feel a little uncomfortable.
Funny as well as touching, `Meet the Parents' blazes forth as one of the
outstanding comedies of recent years.
Co-writers Greg Glienna and Mary Ruth Clarke, along with director Jay Roach, have managed to make a film that is often laugh-out-loud hilarious without ever becoming overbearing or obnoxious, the style of choice for far too many other comedies made in this day and age. Although the film overflows with madcap situations and even outright slapstick at times, these comic elements are always tethered to the reality of the premise and to the emotional states of the characters involved.
The foundation for any great comedy must, first and foremost, be its ability to connect with its audience on a personal level. `Meet the Parents' does so from the very start by tapping into the universal dilemma we all face at one time or another of desperately trying to make a good impression on someone we feel holds nothing less than the fate of our lives in their own two hands. For some of us this person might come in the form a boss or a potential employer or, as in poor Greg Focker's case, those most dreaded figures of all the prospective in-laws. The comedy arises from seeing the chain of ever more preposterous events and circumstances that come along to sabotage his efforts. Greg is a goodhearted, well-meaning nebbish who wants nothing more out of life than to marry Pam, the girl he loves. First, however, he must climb over the rather formidable barrier of her eccentric father, Jack Byrnes, played to perfection by Robert De Niro, who certainly has his own offbeat way of looking at the world.
The triumph of this film is that it never overdoes anything. The people in Pam's family and in their coterie of friends are all twisted it's true, but twisted in sly, subtle ways that knock both Greg and us slightly off our balance. Like Greg, we never quite know where these people are coming from and this greatly enhances the comedic quality of the film. Tone is everything in comedy and here the tone is just right. Byrnes can seem at one moment to be a reasonable loving father, then turn immediately around and make the most unbalanced comments about the most trivial matters. Even when the movie is at its most outrageous in terms of plot complications and slapstick, it never veers off the scale into incredibility. Part of the reason is that we feel so much empathy for Greg, the best Everyman character I have seen in a movie in a long time. Ben Stiller gives a beautifully understated comic performance in the main role. Greg's completely understandable feelings of nervousness, intimidation and growing frustration help to keep the film anchored in reality, even as the story threatens to spiral off into undisciplined absurdity. Luckily, the filmmakers never let this happen. They are also blessed with the genius of Mr. De Niro, who never makes a false move as the seemingly crazy ex-CIA agent who may or may not be harboring a few secrets of his own. Above all, De Niro never lets us bank on the extent of his character's eccentricity, which brilliantly enhances this `weekend from hell' scenario. For crazy and maddening as he can be at times, we can't help loving this character.
Finally, unlike in many other romantic dramas and comedies, the relationship between the young couple in this film is both believable and touching. Greg and Pam are so likable - and the odds against them seem so staggering - that we find ourselves rooting them on from first moment to last. Their moments together are genuinely touching at times, particularly in the film's closing stretches.
Kudos go out to everyone involved for making `Meet the Parents' one of the slyest, wittiest and flat-out funniest movies to come our way in a long, long time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Warning: Spoilers ahead
This film was a real disappointment. It had a good premise and a good cast but, apart from one or two amusing set-pieces, mainly failed to deliver.
The plot partly relied upon mistaken identity due to the main character having changed his name. His real name was Gaylord Foker (oh my aching ribs!). The name was unnecessarily vulgar bearing in mind that it's main task was to set up the confusion of identity scenario (and hey, I liked the dialogue in Goodfellas and Casino so its not a sensibility issue). The name was used at intervals throughout the film to get cheap laughs in a way that was more suited to the "Carry on" films. It wouldn't be worth mentioning, except that so many scenes in the film seemed to rely on it for laughs (even before his 1st name was revealed to be "Gaylord").
Although one or two of the set-pieces were funny, every single one of them was telegraphed way ahead. De Niro gets all emotional about his Mothers ashes - Greg breaks the urn, Greg floods the lawn with s**t - his girlfriends ex drives up in a truck and sprays them with it, the ex carves a beautiful altar for her sister's wedding - Greg burns it down. And so on and so on - you get the picture? All we were missing was Greg leaving a rake for someone to step on and wack themselves in the eye
Imagine a comedy that combines the intelligence and sophistication of "Frasier" or the "Phil Silvers Show" with the slapstick of the Marx Brothers - well you ain't imagining this film. Mixing slapstick/farce with a bit of sophistication is fine when done well ("The Producers" for example) but here the comedy never got sophisticated enough to provide a counterpoint to the -adequate- slapstick. The only low gag they missed was not having the Thai honeymoon destination being Phuket!
This was a film that intermittently promised to develop into something good (De Niro's poem to his dead mother for instance), and the cast did their best with thin material. In the end though it couldn't build on it's few bright spots - it could have been much, much better with a bit more effort.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sorry, but I just don't see how anyone can find this movie funny. I put
the spoiler warning on this comment since I am about to give away the
biggest comedic device in the movie. As unbelievable as it sounds, the
protagonist in the movie has a last name that rhymes with a naughty
word. His last name is Focker! Why is this piece of information a
spoiler? Because joke after joke after joke after joke is made on this
simple premise. In fact, it's so hilarious that they felt the need to
put it in the title of the next movie! In addition, the scenarios in
this movie were so far fetched that instead of being able to enjoy it,
I spent the entire time wondering why the writers were so lazy that
instead of coming up with reasonable plot scenarios, they just passed
off ridiculous decisions in order to force supposedly humorous scenes.
Case and point - Ben Stiller's character loses his luggage while on the
way to meet his fiancée's parents. The first morning he wakes up in his
fiancée's family's house, he wants to change clothes but doesn't have
any. His fiancée suggests that he borrow some of her brother's clothes.
So far, this all seems reasonable. Stiller's character then asks her to
go get some of these clothes. Instead, she tells him it would make more
sense that even though he has yet to meet her brother, he should walk
into his room unannounced and feel free to root through his bureau
until he finds something he wants. Would any person in their right mind
ever suggest such a thing? Needless to say, her brother then catches
this man he doesn't know going through his underwear drawer. That's it!
That's the big joke! And that is supposed to be funny! I could go on
with numerous examples just as ridiculous as this that litter this
movie, but I've wasted enough time. If I can convince just one person
not to waste the 2 hours of his or her life on this abomination of a
film, I will consider this exercise worth while.
1 out of 10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Fresh from a lackluster summer full of sophomoric films, I was quite happy
to have found myself in the theatre watching a sneak preview of the
Universal/Dreamworks picture Meet the Parents.
I remember the weekend that I first met my husband's parents. Joe and I were not even engaged yet. I spent the entire weekend stressed and worried that I'd offend them (they're Jewish and it was Passover weekend) or make an idiot of myself.
I need not have worried. In the movie Meet the Parents, Ben Stiller's character, Greg Focker (yes, that *is* his last name) breaks all previously held records for making an ass of one's self and sets new, unattainable ones, albeit, through not much fault of his own.
The premise of this movie is simple. Greg wants to marry his girlfriend Pam Byrnes (played by Teri Polo). However, he has yet to meet her family. Pam's sister Debbie is getting married and so Greg goes along, wanting to ask the father's permission since that is what Jack (Pam's father) would expect.
Greg even packs a gorgeous two Carat ring in his carry-on. Unfortunately, his bag is deemed too big and it must be checked. You *know* at this point that they WILL lose his bag. What you don't know is all the ensuing comedy that will stem from this one incident.
The humor in this film reminds me of the TV show Seinfeld. It all connects. Jerry loses luggage. However, in this luggage is something that Kramer put in there that will cause...yada yada yada....which has a domino effect and POW! The audience is loving it.
As was the audience that saw this sneak preview. There were many times when the movie could not be heard because people were *still* laughing over the last hilarious scene. They didn't give you time to catch your breath. People were laughing like I haven't heard people laugh in a theatre in a long, long time. Big, gigantic, full body laughs. I know, because I was one of them.
Greg and Pam, sans Greg's luggage (which was lost) arrive and "Meet the Parents." Robert De Niro plays Jack Byrnes, Pam's ex CIA interrogator father who Greg thinks is a retired rare flower dealer. Pam's mother is played with the appropriate level of ditzy dryness by Blythe Danner.
Pam hurriedly tells Greg to get rid of his cigarettes because her father thinks smoking is a sign of weakness. The cigarettes are thrown to the roof. Don't forget about those, because later, they'll be the falling domino for future scenes that you will LOVE. Our audience was losing it.
The supporting characters here are well cast. Owen Wilson has a great turn as Pam's ex, Kevin. Kevin is *everything* that Greg is not, and Pam's dad doesn't hesitate to remind everyone of that fact non-stop. I haven't laughed this much in a too long of a time. I would recommend this film without hesitation. It's smart and funny and just plain FUN. And make sure you pay attention to the last scene. It had me giggling *all* the way home.
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