Thursday, October 4, 2012

Take a Meeting: "Meet the Parents" (2000)

I have not been this surprised by a mainstream hit in a long time.

Ben Stiller is Greg Focker, who goes home with his live-in girlfriend, Teri Polo, to meet her parents and attend her sister's wedding. He decides to ask her father for permission to marry her. Soon, Greg realizes his could be father in law ain't right. He is a former CIA operative who may still be in the company, and everything Greg does is wrong, wrong, wrong. He also meets his girlfriend's ex-fiancee, played very well by Owen Wilson, who is the success everyone expects Greg to be.

I think this film works, especially to anyone who has, is, or plans to be married, or even in a long term relationship. Ben Stiller is hilarious as Greg Focker, being sympathetic without being weak. I read Jim Carrey almost took this role, and I think he would have been all wrong for it. Robert De Niro shows he can do comedy as well as drama, being menacing and funny at the same time. Blythe Danner, as DeNiro's wife, kind of fades into the furniture whenever DeNiro and Stiller get a chance to play off each other.

The script is very funny without going over the top with a bunch of gross out gags. All the comedy unfolds and makes sense to the story, not like the Farrelly brothers, who seem to make up the disgusting stuff first, then fashion a screenplay around it. Although it veers into Chris Columbus/John Hughes/warm and fuzzy territory once in a while, it holds together well.

Jay Roach has a great eye for suburban comedy, taking a nice upper middle class family and introducing regular middle class Stiller. "Meet the Parents" is edited together well, and the gags work almost all of the time.

Like I wrote, I was surprised to like such a big hit. When I find out a film like this goes over a hundred million, I figure the marketing campaign was successful. It is nice to see a film that deserves its audience. (* * * *) out of five stars.