I know I'm late to the party, but probably so are you if you're reading reviews at this late date. "Meet the Parents" is a funny flick that hearkens back to the glorious late-80s, or maybe even earlier, when comedies weren't so preoccupied with shocking the audience with gross out gags or surprise twists. Most of this movie is wonderfully predictable, and aside from a few deliberately clumsy drug references and maybe a sexual innuendo or two, it was good clean fun from start to finish.
Most of all, I'd say it's a good date flick to prepare yourself for the inevitable agony of meeting your own boyfriend/girlfriend's parents. We all know it sucks. (If you don't think so, oh, just you wait. Sometimes it takes years for them to expose themselves as the hideous flesh eating monsters that they are.) De Niro manages to take us to the utter extreme of monster but without shattering our suspension of disbelief. This is a key point. If the situation were to become too absurd , we would lose focus on the story and instead hone in on the individual gags. While there are plenty of funny gags to go round, they are really just dressing on an already funny premise: the story of an underdog who just cannot fit in to a judgmental bourgeois family no matter how hard (and usually because of how hard) he tries.
Ben Stiller shows his acting diversity (while on a different movie set playing the terminally airheaded Zoolander) as a dorky protagonist whose best intentions are always poorly timed or received completely the wrong way.
The antagonists, in this case, everybody else in the movie, tread the fine line of comedy and irritation. That is, at any time you could find yourself laughing or hating them. What's masterfully done is the filmmaker's (and of course actors') ability to turn you on a dime, take you to the edge of wanting to kill someone but then having a hearty laugh at their antics. Like I said earlier, Robert De Niro is the anchor that makes this possible, and any casting short of him (well, or maybe Christopher Walken) would have resulted in the film falling apart due to the demands it puts on our willingness to accept a complete jerk like the character he plays. Really his only redeeming quality is that he likes cats. But that's the point, I guess. No matter how rude a person may seem, there's always something redeeming in there.
Well, maybe except for the hilariously loathsome airline attendant who appears in a short but pivotal role at the film's climax. To me, that scene was worth the price of admission.
Don't think twice, this is a movie worth seeing. Other similar films focusing on severely dysfunctional families trying to act normally include De Niro & Billy Crystal in "Analyze This", a great Andy Garcia movie called "City Island" and--this may be a stretch but--I think fans of "Meet the Parents" would really enjoy the original British "Death at a Funeral" (2007). Ya just gotta love comedies about trying to be normal in an utterly abnormal situation.
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