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Meet the Parents

-by Andrew Goletz

Meet the Parents stars Ben Stiller as Greg Focker (pronounced like it’s spelled, which is a running gag throughout the flick) as a hapless fellow who wants to pop the question to his girlfriend. The problem is, her sister just recently got engaged and her parents were so happy because the fiancé asked her father’s permission before doing so. Apparently her father is old school and like the courtesy the young man showed. So now Greg realizes that he has to ‘meet the parents’ and do the same thing.

There are many occasions in a guy’s romantic life where he is filled with a sense of dread and anxiety and meeting the parents of his significant other is close to, if not at the top of the list. What if her parents don’t like you? What if her family doesn’t like you? What if you pass wind at the dinner table? What if you overflow the toilet? So many things to go wrong, it’s a wonder that fathers are able to find anyone suitable for their daughters.

Focker doesn’t make life any easier on himself by being a pathological liar. He can’t help himself. When confronted with a simple question about his past, Greg isn’t content to just say he was born and raised in Detroit. He needs to tell them that he was raised on a huge farm. From that lie, more questions are raised and more lies are told. He continually sets himself up for disaster and watching Stiller’s expressions are priceless. You can see the pain in his eyes as he realizes that he’s digging himself into a whole in which he may never recover.

There are moments of brilliance in this film, such as when Focker gets to meet his girlfriend’s ex-fiance, whom everyone now adores. She tells Focker that he has nothing to worry about because the relationship was just about sex, as if that’s supposed to make him more comfortable. My favorite scenes in the film have to do with Stiller’s character trying to fit in and join the inner circle of this family, along with their private jokes and daily rituals and failing at every attempt. Each failure just makes him work harder the next time and it causes even more problems.

Robert DeNiro delivers a great performance here. I wasn’t a big fan of ‘Analyze This’, but I think ‘Meet the Parents’ finally gives the great one a chance to show his comedic timing. He doesn’t try to force the lines down our throats, in actuality this is probably one of his more subdued roles, and he handles it perfectly. Who better to play the epitome of your girlfriend’s father from hell than Bobby D? There’s another wonderful moment early on when the family tries to get Focker and his would be father-in-law to bond during a routine trip to the drug store. You could cut the tension with a knife.

My only problems with the film come from the slapstick bits. You’ve seen from the trailers the septic tank mishap and the obligatory shot of a truck stuck in the sewage, trying to get out which sends slime and crap and God knows what else onto the rest of the wedding party. There’s another scene at the family’s first dinner together that once again goes for the easy potty humor target. ‘Meet the Parents’ is a film that didn’t need to go for those cheap laughs. The concept is incredibly funny in it’s own right, and there’s no one better to play the everyman character than Stiller.

So ‘Meet the Parents’ falls slightly short of what it could have been, but it’s an incredibly funny film nonetheless. And I’ll be a little more clear on the ‘funny’ bit. Perhaps most people aren’t going to be rolling in the aisles throughout the film, it isn’t a movie like that. But you’re going to be smiling throughout, and if you’re a guy who’s ever had to go through the ‘meeting’ ritual, you’ll appreciate the film on an entirely different level.

Meet the Parents: 3.25 Griffins (out of 4)

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