Meet the Parents

Directed by Jay Roach
Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, Owen Wilson.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, drug references and language.

Review by Matt Heffernan <>
October 13, 2000

Directly after seeing Dancer in the Dark, which I feel is the best film of the year so far (even if many people detested it), I went to see Meet the Parents with less-than-stellar expectations. I knew that I liked everybody involved from the director, Jay Roach (Austin Powers), to the impressive cast, but this film had a hard act to follow. I didn't expect groundbreaking art, and I didn't get it, but I laughed, I didn't get too bored, and left the theatre with an overall positive feeling. I suppose one shouldn't be nearly moved to tears twice in the same afternoon.

Ben Stiller stars as Greg Focker (not a misspelled profanity, trust me), a nurse at the Chicago Medical Center who is in love with Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo), a teacher at Harmony School (I couldn't tell if this place was supposed to be a nursery school, day care center, or a private elementary school; it's at least the kind of place that would call itself "Harmony School", but I digress beyond reason). He wants to propose to her, but at the moment he is on his knee, she gets a call from her sister, Debbie (Nicole DeHuff). Her boyfriend just proposed to her -- after seeking their father's approval. Greg decides to postpone his proposal until meeting Pam's parents at Debbie's wedding at their house on Long Island.

When they arrive after a troubling time in the airline system, Greg is finally face-to-face with Pam's parents: Jack and Dina (Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner). First impressions are awkward, and it doesn't help matters that Greg is a male nurse while Debbie's fiancÚ is a doctor. Every attempt to impress them fails, and matters only get worse when Greg finds out what Jack used to do for a living.

He was in the olive oil business, of course. No, wrong movie. If you saw the ads, you know the secret, but I won't give it away here. What Meet the Parents does is put Ben Stiller into escalating states of high anxiety, which he does quite well. De Niro can do anything, including comedy, and he provides the strength needed to legitimize Stiller's fear.

Absent are the memorable catch phrases from Roach's Austin Powers films, but this film does retain some of the basic charm. It's especially needed through the many obligatory romantic comedy plot-moving scenes. Luckily, it avoids being overly-sentimental and doesn't take itself to seriously.

Meet the Parents is an enjoyable light comedy with good sight gags that should appeal to a wide audience. And that it has, making $28.6 million its first weekend -- the biggest opening ever for both October and any De Niro film. I suppose the studio and filmmakers are happy, but I wish they had tried taking a few more risks. Well, you can't expect every comedy to be like Being John Malkovich, especially since that film made only $22.9 million in its entire run of over six months.

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Meet the Parents (2000)

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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan