#48 Meet The Parents

(2000, Jay Roach)

“I love you, Dad, but you can be a real jerk sometimes”

I’m going to confess something. I struggle to review comedies at the best of times. With a lot of non-comedy movies, I find it much easier to analyse cinematography, sound design, acting quality, script quality and possible symbolism. Maybe I don’t go too in depth at times, but it’s easier to slip into it. I certainly enjoyed doing it for movies like Black Swan or Trainspotting.

But for comedies, I only have one criteria – does it make me laugh? If the answer is yes, it’s a thumbs-up. If the answer is no, then it’s one of the worst movies ever made. A comedy that doesn’t make you laugh rarely has anything else to fall back on, whereas other genres can always find a way to stay entertaining. How many bad horror movies can become brilliant comedies, for example?

But also, comedy is one of the worst things you can examine in any real detail. Examine a thriller, or a drama, and your analysis can help improve a film, adding dimensions to things that other people might not have noticed. But examine comedy, look at why the jokes work, and the whole thing stops being funny. It dilutes the experience.

So, now I’ve padded this review with as much complaining as possible, let’s try and give my opinion on Meet The Parents.

Meet The Parents stars Ben Stiller as Greg Focker, a male nurse, who’s very much in love with his girlfriend Pam (Teri Polo). Greg wants to propose to her, but finds out that in her family, it would be best if he got her father’s permission. And so, Greg agrees to spend time with her family for a few days in the lead-up to her sister’s wedding. However, her father, Jack (Robert De Niro), seems to take an instant disliking to him, and so Greg has to spend the entire time trying to impress him. Shenanigans happen, and hilarity ensues.

Sooo…is it funny? Yes. Oh, you want more? OH GOD. OK, so it is funny, but sometimes the humour is a little juvenile. Obviously, as many may have guessed, there are a number of jokes involving Greg’s surname and the fact that he’s a male nurse. Sometimes these jokes get tiresome, but other jokes remain entertaining, particularly when they concern Jack’s over-protective conservative ways.

In fact, De Niro is what makes this movie so special. Not exactly famed for his comedic acting abilities, De Niro is seen more as a serious actor best known for playing crime lords or stern authority figures (OK, he is here too, but shush), but here, he shines. This isn’t some Leslie Nielsen-style straight man delivering silly lines performance either. This is full blown comedic acting, right down to cooing over a well-trained cat. And it works so ridiculously well. Maybe it’s because it’s De Niro acting so silly that makes it so entertaining, but what the hell, he’s great at it.

Otherwise, this would just be Ben Stiller playing a weaker version of his character from There’s Something About Mary with slightly less adult jokes, and as a result, it would be a little bit average. Stiller is on top form, of course, but it feels very samey for him, as does much of the movie. In addition, the plot does feel very predictable, even with the wacky mishaps, and that in and of itself is a slight disappointment. It doesn’t even play around with the romantic comedy conventions, it just plays them straight and throws in a joke about Greg being dragged off a plane on suspicion of being a terrorist (again, feeling like a joke recycled from Mary, although it was smarter there).

As stated, I hate reviewing comedies so I have little else to say here. Stiller puts in a good performance, but it’s De Niro that steals the show. Plenty of moments that made me laugh, but the saccharine, predictable plot drags things down a little, and some of the jokes are just plain dumb.

Starring Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, James Rebhorn, Jon Abrahams & Owen Wilson
Written by Greg Glienna & Mary Ruth Clarke (story), Jim Herzfeld & John Hamburg (screenplay)
Produced by Nancy Tenenbaum & Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro & Jay Roach
Music by Randy Newman
Cinematography by Peter James
Edited by Jon Poll

Favourite Scene: The sniping jealousy of Pam’s ex-boyfriend (played by Owen Wilson) was highly entertaining. Helped that Wilson seemed to be deliberately trying to make him as insufferably “perfect” as possible
Scene That Bugged Me: The reveal of Greg’s real name. It wasn’t enough to give him the ridiculous surname of “Focker”, was it?

Watch it if: You wish Robert De Niro was your dad
Avoid it if: The idea of actually meeting your partner’s parents terrifies you, this will scar you

Originally posted on Blogspot Sunday 22 January 2012

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Posted on April 12, 2012, in 2000s, Comedy and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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