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MEET THE PARENTS

Review by Alex Haberstroh

Stars:  Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, Owen Wilson
Director:  Jay Roach
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS
Video: 
1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Studio: Universal
Features:  See Review
Length:  108 Minutes
Release Date:  March 6, 2001

Film ****

If a survey was taken of all the men (at least those in countries where marriages aren’t arranged), in which they were asked what situations are filled with the most anxiety and fear, meeting the parents of your future spouse would probably rank among the highest.  For some reason, guys always feel a little weird, almost like an outsider, when they are brought into a family with unknown customs and habits.  Add to that your girlfriend’s father might be a complete psychopath who pulls you aside and whispers that he “knows what boys want at this age,” and that’ll send a chill down almost any guy’s spine. 

It is this situation of fear and terror and a feeling of awkward “not belonging” that is the heart and soul of Meet the Parents, a movie that’s both incredibly charming and funny, but whose life’s blood is the pure anxiety that hangs over nearly every scene. 

The story is not a complicated one, as the director’s intention was to put more emphasis on the characters’ reactions to each other and the situations they confront.  Stiller plays Greg Focker (yes, pronounced just how it’s spelled), a man who’s desperately in love with his girlfriend Pam (Polo), and wants to marry her.  But just as he’s about to propose, his intricately laid plans are disrupted by the fact that Pam’s sister calls to tell her that she is getting married.  Finding out that Pam’s father would appreciate being asked first, Greg, deflated somewhat, decides to wait to ask Pam’s father for his blessing before proposing. 

After meeting Jack Brynes (De Niro), Pam’s paranoid and extremely protective, ex-CIA father, Greg realizes that he’s in for much more then he bargained. 

Jay Roach, responsible for directing the comedic hit Austin Powers, returns with a vengeance to the comedic front, with many hilarious and memorable moments in the film.  While a fan of Austin Powers, I liked how Roach seemed to be able to keep Meet the Parents funny, without having it be all lewd jokes about sex or bowel movements.  Meet the Parents is a comedy with a more grownup blend of humorous situations that both children and adults will appreciate.

In terms of acting, there is a great cast that seems very much at ease working with each other.  The supporting cast of Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, Owen Wilson and others are all very involved in supporting stars De Niro and Stiller and all do a terrific job. Stiller is excellent as the very nervous, but eager to please, Greg, who really only wants to have Jack Brynes’ blessing.  De Niro, who lately has been impressing me with his subtle comedic ability in gems like Wag the Dog and Analyze This, has provided another great performance and strong character portrayal.  The movie’s success really comes from De Niro, whose previous intense roles reinforces his character’s overall worldliness and toughness, making the anxiety felt by Greg easily shared by the audience.

Meet the Parents was a surprising hit to me when I first saw it in theaters.  Refreshing, funny, and with many memorable scenes to haunt you about you’re turn to “meet the parents,” this one’s a winner.

Video ***1/2

The Anamorphic transfer was a good one.  The flesh tones of the actors and the environments were well done.  I noticed no problems with saturation and overall this is a solid transfer from a company that knows what it’s doing.     

Audio ****

Leave it to Universal to make a Dolby Digital 5.1 in English and French, as well as a DTS track for a comedy.  While these tracks don’t have too much to do because it’s a not a sci-fi or action blockbuster, Universal’s providing additional audio tracks is definitely appreciated, as they once again are a fine example to other studios.

Most of the sound comes out of the center channel but there are no problems noticeable here.  The track, while not full of rear sound effects like explosions, gunshots, loud scores, or howling creatures, is still a good transfer and what I judge as adequate for a comedy. 

Supplements ****

As to be expected of Universal, this is a nice Collector’s Edition that’s also surprisingly affordable.  First offered are two audio commentaries.  One consists of Director Jay Roach and Editor Jon Poll, who offer some interesting insight into the characters, locations and what went on behind the scenes.  I was also amused to find out that they taped the Chicago airport scenes in the same airport in Westchester County, New York my family and I used to fly out of.  In the second track Director Jay Roach returns, this time with Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, and producer Jane Rosenthal.  This is a good and interesting track overall but De Niro seems eerily quiet, only blurting short answers when others attempt to get him talking. 

Next up is a Spotlight on Location featuring interviews and never before seen footage.  Approximately twenty-four minutes, the featurette is a normal “behind the scenes promo,” i.e. worthless. 

After that are two short deleted scenes, with an option for Director Roach’s commentary.  Both were dropped for time purposes; one of the two was somewhat funny.  Also included are two interactive games, one the “Lie Detector” and the other the “Forecaster game.”  The first is pretty self-explanatory, asking questions to see if you would lie.  The “Forecaster” is about trying to see how you’d do with your future in laws; I got “restraining order,” Sob! 

Finally are production notes, detailed cast and filmmaker bios, film recommendations, a DVD newsletter ad, an offer to go to Universal Studios, trailers for Meet the Parents, and a showcase that is for The Mummy Returns and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (two previews I mock in the theater.  Where’s the damn Pearl Harbor preview on any of these DVD’s?  I want that one in DD 5.1!). 

Summary:

In conclusion, Meet the Parents is a well-rounded Collector’s Edition with great supplements, and a movie that provides enough laughs and funny situations for multiple viewings.  A much more impressive and original movie in my eyes than something like Scary Movie, which was nothing but making a satire of satire of horror movies, this one is an amusing gem for your collection.  Definitely Recommended.