Meet the Parents (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

It really wasn't a good year for movies, you know. It was a year so desperate for laughs that critics and audiences elevated a good comedy like Meet the Parents to undeserved "great" status.

To fix it in comedy history, travel way back with me and Sherman and Peabody. Go back in your mind before the recent period of mad invention ("Something about Mary") and edgy satire ("South Park"). Go back before the Zucker-Abrahams era of films loaded with rapid-fire visual gags and mini-parodies. Keep traveling back before the 60's era of anti-establishment humor. You can stop now, and relax among the company of Lucy and Ethel. I expected Deniro to put Ben Stiller on a conveyer belt task, then keep speeding it up.

Did you remember I Love Lucy?

If so, imagine an episode you've never seen - the one in which Lucy visited Ricky's parents to attend Ricky's sister's wedding, eager to please. What do you think would happen in that imaginary episode? Let's see - Ricky's ex-girlfriend would be the most beautiful woman in the world, and would be adored by Ricky's parents as well as all who meet her. Many would say that her very touch could cure the infirm.



Teri Polo had a brief down-blouse

And poor intimidated Lucy would let the beloved household cat outside, even though the animal had never been outside before. Then, in tracking the cat down, she'd end up on the roof, setting the house on fire, burning down the sister's outdoor wedding setting. And for good measure, she'd drop the cat, give the bride-to-be a black eye, and accidentally flush a toilet that wasn't supposed to be flushed, thereby causing the entire house and lawn to smell of shit for the wedding day.

And then Lucy's luggage would be lost by the airline, and when they delivered the wrong bag to her house, Ricky's parents would open it, and it would be full of S&M toys or cocaine or automatic weapons or Soldier of Fortune magazines.

And then Lucy would want to seduce a cat, but since she looks too much like a skunk, she'd have to spray paint her white streak - wait a minute, that isn't Lucy, it's Pepe Le Pew! But it happened in the movie anyway, except they painted the cat instead of a skunk.

Well, just substitute Ben Stiller for Lucy, expand the episode to two hours, and throw in some intimidation from his girlfriend's dad (Robert Deniro), a CIA operative who specializes in interrogation, and you have "Meet the Parents". The basic premise is hilarious - what's it like if your girlfriend's dad owns his own polygraph and has every inch of the house blanketed by hidden cameras and microphones? Plus, he'd be your father-in-law from hell even without the interrogation techniques - he is suspicious of anyone who doesn't love cats, and he makes you sleep on a different floor of the house ("my house, my rules").

Don't get me wrong. It is a good old-fashioned two hour sitcom, about like watching four good Seinfeld episodes, but it's still a sitcom, after all, and not that original. I laughed when Ben Stiller had to say grace at the Christian table. His character comes from a secular Jewish family, and the only religious words he can recall under fire are the lyrics from "Day by Day". OK, funny enough, but think back to when Chevy Chase had to say some words over the dead aunt's body before they abandoned her on the back patio in "Vacation". Same general premise. Chase could only recall the general phraseology of the biblical words, but not the meaning, so he just mumbled some insincere gibberish with a lot of "yea, verily, we beseech thee" thrown in.

Of course, we all know that recycling is good.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1, looks good

  • Two different full-length commentaries, one from the director, one from the cast

  • Making-of featurette

  • Several deleted scenes and a blooper reel.

And, frankly, you have to worry a bit about any movie which gets so much mileage out of silly names. Stiller's name is Gay Focker, and I think the other characters in the cast must address him as "Focker" about fifty times, with laughs in mind, not counting the times when they simply discuss the implication of having grandchildren named Martha Focker and Bud Focker and Dust Focker and Hardy Focker and .... say, it is kinda tempting to keep doing that, isn't it? They really should have asked him about dear, sainted, old Mother Focker. Too bad they didn't have another character named Zucker. I'm sure Focker and Zucker could have had many wonderful adventures together.

The hit-level box office and the good reviews would lead you to believe it is a comic masterpiece on the level of Duck Soup. That it isn't, but a couple of good hours of I Love Lucy or Seinfeld isn't bad entertainment. Enjoyable movie, and good DVD, by the way. Lots of extra material.

Loosey, I'm home

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: between 2.5 and three stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4, Apollo 77, Maltin 2.5/4.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 85% positive overall, but a much more impressive 89% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.3, Apollo users 76/100. These scores are consistent with the critical consensus.
  • With their dollars ... a monster hit. A $55 milion budget generated $165 million in US domestic gross alone (2600 screens). One of the top comedies of all time.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B-, or maybe a C+. Somewhere in there.

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