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Meet the Parents

Tag Team of Laughs

By Ryan Klimczak

Staff Writer

Directed by Jay Roach

Produced by Jay Roach, Nancy Tenenbaum, and Jane Rosenthal

Written by Jim Herzfeld

Starring Robert DeNiro, Teri Polo, Ben Stiller, Jon Abrahams, Blythe Danner


From the director of Austin Powers comes this remake of the 1993 comedy where young Pam (Teri Polo) brings her boyfriend Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) home to meet her parents. Her father, Jack Byrnes (Robert DeNiro) instantly decides that he’s unimpressed by his daughter’s husband-to-be, and what follows is a disastrous family weekend, during which things just keeping getting worse. From losing the family’s cat to giving Pam’s sister a black eye, nothing goes right for Greg when he tries to impress Pam’s intimidating and gung-ho father.

DeNiro personifies what one would expect as the father-in-law from hell. It is remarkable and unexpected that DeNiro could solidly portray a comedic role, considering his earlier and less successful attempts in Wag the Dog and Analyze This. It is, however, DeNiro’s antagonizing, subdued, and menacing style that lends such a hilarious and stark contrast to Stiller’s consistent array of jokes, mishaps, and constant sarcasm. It is the underlying misconceptions, paranoia, and tension between these two characters that lend the movie its greatest comedic strength. “I will be watching you [Greg], and if I find that you are trying to corrupt my first child, I will bring you down, I will bring you down to Chinatown.”

After a disappointing streak of less successful films like Mystery Men, Meet the Parents proves to be one of Ben Stiller’s greatest comedic performances since There’s Something about Mary. As Greg, Stiller shoulders the bulk of the film’s humor with his witty sarcasm and hilarious, but vain attempts to impress his future father-in-law.

The entire film is a continuous sequence of laughs, from the indoor pool volleyball scene to the polygraph scene where Jack hooks Greg up to a lie-detector just to have “some fun.” “Greg,” a grave Jack asks, “have you ever watched pornographic videos?” “Umm ... no,” Greg lies sheepishly.

With the exception of Stiller and Jon Abrahams (Scary Movie), Jay Roach’s cast is comprised of actors who less known for their work as comedians but more as dramatic actors. Blythe Danner (The Great Santini and Husbands and Wives) as Pam’s mother serves as the level-headed and charming accompaniment to Jack’s skepticism and suspicion. Her innocent, non-judgmental, and non-assuming character merges well into the comedic scenes, and she lends some believable naivetÉ. “Greg,” she says, “you have a very unique last name, how’s it pronounced?” Greg replies, “Just like it sounds, F-O-K-E-R.” “Oh,” she says “Fucker.”

Actually, one of the most over-played aspects of the movie is Greg’s last name. Scene after scene, they continually use his last name to refer to him, which becomes tired and annoying.

Throughout the film, each scene snowballs into another, which in turn leads to a even more more hilariously ridiculous scene. For example, Greg accidentally overflows the septic tank, which then floods the backyard during Pam’s sister’s wedding. Then the tank ends up spraying mud all over the family, and sets the backyard on fire. This snowball effect is skillfully played out with explosive humor.

Meet the Parents provides an offbeat and novel twist on the usually sappy genre of romantic comedies. It successfully incorporates original and twisted humor into its plot. Greg battles the father-knows-best mentality of his in-laws in a hilarious concoction of confusion and false impressions.

“Did you want to marry her?” “I did,” Greg replies, “until I met you.”