Meet the Parents
Director Jay Roach's (Austin Powers) very funny comedy of courtship terrors, Meet the Parents takes full advantage of a basic comedy escalating device -- where everything that could go wrong, does, and the film embraces a universal situation.
The first intimidating meet and greet with the prospective in-laws.
Ben Stiller, (in a role that will recall his lovable loser from the outlandish Farrelly Brother's comedy There's Something About Mary), plays sincere male nurse Greg, who is on the brink of proposing to his sweetheart of 10 months, Pam Byrnes (an appropriately sympathetic Teri Polo). Fate intervenes and his romantic plans are put on hold while the couple travels to her parents' house on Long Island for her sister's own suddenly announced wedding. Hoping to score a few brownie points with her Dad, Greg plans to take advantage of the situation for his own proposal and parental approval.
After a frazzling trip, Greg is dismayed to realize that a weekend with Pam's WASPy parents may not be as breezy as he expected. Even with Pam's comment, "humor is entirely wasted on my parents," Greg quickly understands that this an understatement of the year -- particularly in describing her taciturn (and vaguely threatening) father Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro).
Supposedly a retired rare flower specialist, Jack seems a bit more at home inventing "advanced versions of Nanny-Cams," potty training his beloved cat Mr. Jinx, and suspiciously sizing up and dressing down this new suitor of his # 1 daughter. Unnerved to the point where even a simple conversation dangerously turns into off-the-wall discussions about pot smoking and breast pumps, Greg's good-natured sarcasm and dry humor is quickly squelched as his discomfort with Jack escalates into physical predicaments, and disaster upon disaster as well.
Stiller plays a familiar character with a nice energy and presence, making the most of all his character's asides and observations. Clearly enjoying his role, De Niro also puts a fresh spin on a character that is slightly an amalgamation of roles that jive with his most familiar persona as a tough guy. His star power in a comedy mode proves highly appealing, similar to his performance in the hilarious Analyze This. Deft supporting performances by Blythe Danner, as the mother, and the always droll Owen Wilson provides a nice balance for moviegoers who like their comedy a bit more low-key as well.
Benefiting enormously from the adversarial chemistry of Stiller and De Niro, the film delights with gags, outrageous but not overly gross or extraneous, that neatly tie in with the storyline. Director Roach has a nice eye for amusing details, and the comic pace throughout is brisk, while also allowing for the sweetly romantic aspects of the story to have their moments. This is the first great comedy of the fall.