Meet the Parents
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Meet the Parents

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Some thirty years ago I came to the decision to ask my girlfriend to marry me. Out of respect for her father, I felt it was necessary to first ask his permission before slipping the ring on his daughter’s finger. Now, I was on very good terms with her father so I really didn’t think he would refuse. Still, as was only natural, my mind began to imagine everything that could possibly go wrong. Upon viewing ‘Meet the Parents’ each of these dark visions of my imagination not only came back to me but they were surpassed beyond anything could fear back then. Greg Focher (Ben Stiller)is a male nurse in love with a elementary school teacher Pam (Teri Polo). As he is about to pop the question, Pam mentioned that her kid sister just became engaged and what really helped is he asked the father for permission first. Wanting to be respectful to the father of the woman he loves, Greg decides to postpone asking Pam until he can talk to her father. Pam and Greg are going to the kid sister’s wedding and Greg plans on asking the father then. Things start to go wrong long before Greg and Pam’s father even meet. The airline loses Greg’s luggage. Greg finds out that the father dislikes smoking so he has to face the parents not only without fresh clothes but also in the throws of nicotine withdrawal. At last Greg gets to meet the parents, Frank (Robert DiNiro) and his perfect wife Dina (Bythle Danner). Immediately there is animosity between Frank and poor, belabored Greg. Strike one against the suffering suitor is his last name, Focher. You draw the conclusion here. Then there is the fact that Greg is a male nurse. A profession that Frank sees as more appropriate for a woman. Hard s he may try everything Greg does comes back with awful consequences. For example, he buys a bottle of champagne for dinner. As he pops the cork it not only hits the urn containing the ashes of Frank’s beloved mother but the family cat immediately uses the split ashes as a litter box. To make matters worse Frank is not a retired florist as he was told, Pam eventually reveals to Greg that her father was a career CIA operative. This becomes painfully obvious when Frank hooks Greg up to a lie detector. Rubbing salt in the wound, Pam’s ex boyfriend (Owen Wells) is the best man at her sister’s wedding. He is perfect in every respect. A multimillionaire, extremely talented in woodworking and well liked by Frank. Greg can’t win for losing.

The actors are perfectly cast for this film. Stiller, far better in a role he didn’t write (just look at Mystery Men) has a knack for comic timing. The jokes are funny not so much for the writing but how they are delivered. Stiller is a worthy replacement for the type of roles Woody Allen used to play. He is the every man, an average guy that the men in the audience can immediately identify with and sympathize with. With is sad sack face Stiller’s character sinks deeper and deeper into dispare. As he does the laughs mount, mostly because the problems are far worse than anything we have ever had to face. DiNiro is a master at comedy. What helps a lot in this is his history of playing the heavy character in so many films. As with is role in ‘Analyze This’ much of the comedy comes from our expectations of DiNiro as a heavy juxtaposed with the normal situation bent to extraordinary heights. Danner’s portrayal of the mother is wonderful. She is the center of the family, acting as the intermediator between her stern husband and her children. While never a participant in the jokes her presence certainly adds to the humor. Polo is also well cast as the girlfriend. Her character changes to accommodate who is in the room. In front of her parents she is the respectful and loving daughter while when she is alone with Greg we see a young woman in love. Its little touches like this that add a sense of realism to the film needed to make the comedy work as well as it does.

Director Jay Roach is no stranger to successful comedies. He scored big hits with both of the Austin Powers flicks. His style of direction appears to be rather straightforward. No fancy cuts, fades or effects. He depends upon the audience identifying with the protagonist to get the big laughs. Roach works well with established comedians like Myers and, in this case, Stiller. He knows when to sit back and let the actor do their job. I have seen too many comedies ruined by over directing. The film flows well, each small incident in place as a set up for a laugh later on in the story. For example the lost luggage is good for a laugh in leaving the hero without clothes but it also sets up for an expository scene as he most go with Frank to the store. It also provides another joke when the wrong luggage is delivered and it is full of bondage gear. The little attention to details like this and the ability to give credit to the audience to be able to connect these comic plants makes this more than a slapstick farce, it adds a dimension of intelligence to the mix. The use of widescreen framing is also important to Roach’s direction. This film will lose a lot when cut to 4:3 format. What will be missed is the wonderful reactions of the ancillary characters as the misfortunes of Greg unfold. Roach can easily replace the Farley brothers as the premier comic directors in films today.

This new release was obviously done in concert with the theatrical release of the sequel, Meet the Fockers. It is a hybrid of extras and features from the previous release with a lot of new material. The original Dolby 5.1 and DTS audio tracks are back as well as the anamorphic 1.85:1 video. Both are in excellent shape offering a full, rich sound field and sharp picture. The original commentary track featuring director Jay Roach and Editor Jon Poll but the cast commentary has been removed to make room for the newer material. The out takes from the original release are there now joined by a new out take section. Its pretty much more of the same, various scenes that show the actors missing marks and flubbing their lines. De Niro seems to take such mistakes with great humor. There is a number of deleted scenes including De Niro Unplugged, one of the greatest American actors in an impromptu song. Two featurettes will give you a few laughs, "Silly Cat Tricks" showing how the cat wrangler taught Jinx the cat his on screen antics and "The Truth About Lying", replacing the old lie detector test game with a featurette about polygraph technology. This is a must have film. If you do not already have the old release get this one and be prepared to laugh.

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