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MEET THE PARENTS

Review by Andrew Manning (10/00)

Release: 2000, Universal/DreamWorks
Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, James Rebhorn, Owen Wilson
Director: Jay Roach
MPAA Rating: [PG-13] sexuality, language
Genre: Comedy/Romance


First comes love. Then comes the interrogation...



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SUMMARY

When moniker-challenged Greg Focker (Stiller) meets his girlfriend's mother and psychotically overprotective father (De Niro) for the first time, anything and everything goes wrong.

THE SUDDEN RUNDOWN

Stiller, De Niro, and a well-trained cat form an unbeatable comic trio in this hilarious comedy.

WHAT'S GOOD

As a comedy in which everything seems to go wrong, Meet the Parents is a non-stop riot, headed up by an excellent pairing of Ben Stiller as the hapless Greg Focker and Robert De Niro as the intimidating Jack Burns out to interrogate him. When Focker gets the idea in his head to propose to his girlfriend (Teri Polo), he is brought to the conclusion that meeting her parents and getting her father's permission would be a good idea. So the two arrange a trip, and Murphy's Law quickly kicks into high gear: the airline loses Focker's bag, his girlfriend throws out his cigarettes, and Jack discovers Focker hates cats, much to his dismay.

That brings us to one of the major running gags in the movie: the cat. The parents have a cat named Mr. Jinx who is curiously well-trained. Specifically, Jack has somehow taught it to use the bathroom like a human being, although he can't flush the toilet since he "lacks the opposable thumbs." When Focker claims that he's more of a dog-person, a disgruntled Jack asks, "So you prefer an emotionally shallow animal, do you?"

Another running gag, in case you haven't noticed by now, is the name of Stiller's character, Greg Focker. Giving him another reason to oppose the marriage of his firstborn daughter and Focker, Jack realizes the girl's married name would end up being Pamela Martha Focker. Later, adding salt to the wounds, it's revealed Greg's first name is really Gaylord, prompting his future brother-in-law to ask, "So you're a Gay Focker?"

Needless to say, the movie is filled with major catastrophes that make Jack hate Focker even more: a botched dinner prayer preceeds Focker knocking the ashes of Jack's dead mother onto the floor, into which Mr. Jinx quickly squats; Focker accidentally backs up the plumbing and sets the house on fire; when he mistakenly lets Mr. Jinx out of the house, he paints another cat to pose as an imposter; in a competitive game of pool volleyball, Focker spikes the ball right into his girlfriend's sister's face, giving her a vicious bloody nose and a swollen eye on the eve of her wedding.

All of the material in Meet the Parents is funny, but little of it would have been a true success without some real talent delivering the goods. Robert De Niro is absolutely hilarious as the overbearing father who can't stand the schmuck his beloved daughter just brought home, constantly threatening Focker and sneering at him. And Ben Stiller, always adept at playing the downtrodden good guy (see Mystery Men and There's Something About Mary), is perfect as Focker.

Owen Wilson has a cameo in the movie as the ex-boyfriend of Focker's girlfriend.

From director Jay Roach, who directed both installments of Austin Powers, Meet the Parents is an excellent comedy, and a fun diversion that has scored well with audiences. If you enjoy the type of disasterous, mid-to-low brow comedy that I've described here, then I highly recommend you check this one out.


WHAT'S BAD

Although I wasn't one of them, some viewers may be put off by the constant, somewhat repetitive recurrence of the "Focker" joke.

Considering how important honesty was to De Niro's character, it's pretty amazing how much he embraced the phony in-laws of his second daughter.


Rating: 8 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)
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