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:: Meet the Parents

“Meet The Parents” is an unceasingly entertaining treat because of the performances of two people: Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller. The film plays off De Niro’s intimidating features from previous tough guy roles, as he portrays a young guy’s nightmare, in playing the girlfriend’s father, Jack Byrnes. The casting works beautifully as you can imagine walking up to meet your future father-in-law, and visualising Vito Corleone, Jake La Motta and Max Cady rolled into one. Only words and facial expressions express his violent association here and the sentiment is similar to what you might expect from a bloody gang battle. Ben Stiller plays Greg, a male nurse who wants to marry Pam (Teri Polo). Just before he pops the question, he learns that Pam’s sister, Debbie (Nicole DeHuff) has become engaged, but only after her boyfriend Bob (Tom McCarthy) got the permission of Jack first. Greg and Pam fly in for the wedding, thereby giving Greg the perfect opportunity to acquaint himself with her parents, Jack and Dana (Blythe Danner).

The great joke of the film is when Greg Focker (we later learn his real Christian name) introduces himself. Just imagine De Niro, as Jack, having the time of his life poking fun at the name “Focker”. There is also a wonderful line about Pam’s married name becoming Pamela Martha Focker. The whole episode of this meeting becomes a series of confrontations. It’s one disaster after another, but the film avoids going over the top or smothering its credibility.

From the moment the airline loses Greg’s suitcase, one can sense that he’s in for some misfortune. Consequently, it doesn’t take long for Jack to be unimpressed by Greg’s profession and religion (Greg is Jewish). The situations gather steam and hilarity as Greg fumbles through his desire to make a good impression. One can agonise over the sequence of events that befall Greg and even Pam and her mother, however sympathetic they are, can’t believe what occurs. In fact, some scenes have to be seen to be believed, but anyone faced with the prospect of craving for approval by the parents of a loved one, would be familiar in efforts to over-exaggerate or fudge circumstances.

Director Jay Roach, (directed the two Austin Powers films and Mystery Alaska) provides a nice twist to the storyline in portraying De Niro’s character as being a retired CIA specialist. It adds a great touch to the wonderful pairing of De Niro and Stiller. Combining De Niro’s brilliant deadpan simplicity with Stiller’s genius at merely looking awkward and anxious works perfectly throughout the film. The audience can no doubt feel Greg’s agony and embarrassment, but can also laugh at his unflappable resolve in the face of near disaster. Roach gives us a relatively straightforward situation comedy and exploits what’s funny in nearly every situation. I had many hearty laughs watching “Meet The Parents” and it’s one of the most enjoyable comedies of the past year. It is highly recommended over the holiday season and particularly desirable with a packed theatre for the extra effect.
Carmine Pascuzzi
Screening on general release, including the Classic Cinemas, Dendy Brighton, Balwyn and Belgrave cinemas