Meet the Parents [DVD]
Screenplay : Jim Herzfeld and John Hamburg (story by Greg Glienna & Mary Ruth Clarke)
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2000
Stars : Ben Stiller (Greg Focker), Robert De Niro (Jack Byrnes), Blythe Danner (Dina Byrnes), Teri Polo (Pam Byrnes), Nicole DeHuff (Debbie Byrnes), Jon Abrahams (Denny Byrnes), James Rebhorn (Larry Banks), Phyllis George (Linda Banks), Owen Wilson (Kevin Rawley)
For Greg Focker (Ben Stiller), the earnest, put-upon hero of Meet the Parents, absolutely nothing goes right from the very beginning. First of all, his attempt to propose to his girlfriend, Pam (Teri Polo), is interrupted by a cell phone call from Pam's sister, Debbie (Nicole DeHuff), that she just got engaged and will be getting married in two weeks. Greg decides to hold off on the proposal until he's met Pam's parents, because he gets the feeling that Pam's father is an old-fashioned sort who would appreciate his asking for approval first.
Two weeks later, Greg and Pam travel to Pam's home on Long Island for Debbie's wedding. This is Greg's time to shine, a weekend to impress Pam's parents and demonstrate that he is more than worthy of asking her hand in marriage. Greg has no problems winning over Pam's mother, Dina (Blythe Danner), who is sure from the start that Greg is a good guy. Pam's father, Jack (Robert De Niro), is a whole other story.
Strike one against Greg is his name. "Interesting last name," Dina says tentatively when they first meet. "How do you pronounce it?" "Exactly like it's spelled," Greg replies in the weary voice of a man who has spent more than 30 years dealing with the fact that his last name sounds almost exactly like a variation of the most obscene four-letter word in the English language.
Strike two against Greg is his profession: He's a male nurse. "Not a lot of men in your profession, are there Greg?" Jack asks. Of course, as Seinfeld would say, there's nothing wrong with being a male nurse, but the fact that both Debbie's fiancé, Bob, and Bob's father (James Rebhorn) are doctors doesn't make the situation any easier.
Strike three against Greg is the fact that he smokes, which Jack sees as a sign of weakness. Thus, he spends the whole film chewing wads of nicotine gum. The gum eventually becomes a measure of Greg's increasingly desperate situation: the more gum he chews, the worse he's doing.
Strike four against Greg is his dislike of cats. Jack is enamored of Mr. Jinks, their pet cat who he has trained to use the toilet. During their initial meeting, Pam blurts out that Greg hates cats, something he spends the rest of the movie trying to deny. "I just prefer dogs," is his rather weak-sounding rationale.
Strike five against Greg is the fact that the airline has lost his luggage, so he is forced to borrow ill-fitting clothing from Pam's pot-head younger brother. Strike six is a scene in which he opens a bottle of champagne and destroys the urn that holds the ashes of Jack's dearly departed mother. Strike seven is the fact that the best man in Debbie's wedding is Kevin (Owen Wilsen), Pam's ultra-rich ex-fianc* who Jack obviously favors. Strike eight is a scene in which Greg gets a little overzealous in playing water volleyball and gives the bride-to-be a black eye. And so on and so forth.
Basically, Greg can't do anything right, and the harder he tries, the deeper he digs himself in. Of course, his quest for acceptance is not aided by Jack, a hard-nosed man with a frank disposition and a minimal sense of humor. He has a set of inviolable standards, each one of which Greg is, of course, sure to violate. And, no matter what Greg says, Jack will analyze it, question it, and eventually reinterpret it, such as his rendering of Greg's affinity for dogs into a need for an "emotionally shallow" animal that's "easy to break."
De Niro plays Jack in broadly comic fashion, sometimes going a bit overboard, such as the scene in which he makes all kinds of perplexed facial expressions at Greg's attempt to say grace during dinner. Still, like his role in Analyze This (1999), De Niro's screen experience and the natural gravity he carries as an actor lends weight to the role. Simply put, it's hard not to take De Niro seriously in any role.
Ben Stiller continues to perfect the art of playing exasperated roles of comic embarrassment. His purpose in Meet the Parents is to offer a readily identifiable character with whom the audience can empathize--and then wince and shudder with when everything goes wrong. While they are some broad, slapstick laughs in Meet the Parents, much of the laughter is of the painful sort because Greg is constantly going in the reverse direction. Rather than impressing Pam's parents, he continually upsets them.
Directed by Jay Roach's (Austin Powers), Meet the Parents generates most of its laughs in the give-and-take between Stiller and De Niro. There are some broad comic moments, including the obligatory gross-out scene involving an overflowing septic tank, but the most consistently funny scenes are the ones in which Greg and Jack go head to head. Of course, Greg can't gain any ground, and that's part of the humor: He's literally spinning his wheels. Of course, Meet the Parents is also a romantic comedy, thus there is little surprise at the reconciliation in the end. Still, it ends on a hilarious note (potentially ruined, I might add, by its inclusion in the trailer) that suggests that Greg and Jack's relationship is still far from cemented.
|Meet the Parents: Collector's Edition DVD|
|Audio|| Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround|
DTS 5.1 Surround
|Languages||English (DD 5.1, DTS 5.1) |
French (DD 5.1)
|Supplements|| Commentary with director Jay Roach and editor John Poll |
Commentary with director Jay Roach, coproducer Jane Rosenthal, and stars Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro
"Spotlight on Location" featurette
Two deleted scenes with commentary
Lie Detector Test
Cast and crew biographies and filmographies
Original theatrical trailer
DVD-ROM: Games, Screen Saves, and Wallpaper
|Meet the Parents is presented in an anamorphic transfer in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This is a solid, quality transfer, although it is not as resolutely sharp and well-defined as some. This is most likely due to the cinematography by Peter James, which goes for a softer look, especially in the outdoor scenes that are dominated by natural sunlight. The colors are strong and well-saturated throughout, and flesh tones appear natural. Some fine grain is apparent in the darker scenes that take place at night, as well as in the restaurant scene, but it is hardly noticeable and not distracting in any way. Edge enhancement is minimal to nonexistent.|
|This DVD is outfitted with both a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track and a DTS 5.1 surround track. As the soundtrack is not particularly flashy in terms of sound effects, there is little difference between the two mixes, but both sound great. Dialogue is clear and precise throughout, and Randy Newman's playful, upbeat score sounds wonderful (as does his Oscar-nominated theme song, "A Fool in Love"). Some of the slapstick farce sequences--such as the scene with Greg on the roof of the house causing mass destruction in the backyard by setting it on fire--do make good use of the surround speakers. But, overall, this soundtrack is notable for its clarity, subtle efficiency, and lack of calling attention to itself.|
| Released under Universal's "Collector's Edition" banner, Meet the Parents has a wide array of supplements, some of which are excellent and some of which are just filler. |
First up is not one, but two feature-length, scene-specific audio commentaries. The first commentary, with director Jay Roach and editor John Poll, is the better of the two. Both Roach and Poll are very articulate about what they were trying to accomplish in each scene, and they have plenty of amusing background stories and anecdotes about the production to keep the commentary lively and interesting. The second commentary, which again features Roach along with coproducer Jane Rosenthal and stars Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro (who was also a coproducer), doesn't live up to expectations. This commentary is a bit disappointing in that the two most anticipated participants, Stiller and De Niro, don't have much to offer. De Niro is especially noticed in his silence, and even when Roach tries to elicit comments from him, his responses are usually one or two sentences with little or no elaboration. The one good thing that emerges from this commentary is the sense of what a collaborative project Meet the Parents was. Half the comments revolve around who came up with what aspect of each scene, and it becomes quickly apparent that everyone contributed something (considering that De Niro and Stiller have both directed movies themselves, it's hard to imagine that they wouldn't have input).
The "Spotlight on Location" featurette, which runs about 24 minutes, is a good, but not particularly outstanding, look at the making of the movie. Filled primarily with scenes from the movie intercut with interviews with Jay Roach, Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, James Rebhorn, and several others, it provides an interesting overview of the movie as a whole and the various participants' takes on it. As with most of these production featurettes, much of it involves back-slapping about how great everyone was to work with.
The disc includes two brief deleted scenes, both of which are good, but had to be cut for reasons of length and pacing (these are presented in nonanamorphic widescreen, and their image quality is rough and unpolished). You can watch these scenes with or without commentary by Roach and Poll. Their discussion of the scenes is fascinating in that they illustrate how differently directors and editors view deleted material. Poll says upfront that he doesn't think anyone should see these deleted scenes; as the editor, it is his job to cut material and make the finished product the best it can be. He thinks the movie should speak for itself. Roach, on the other hand, who actually filmed these scenes, has more of an affinity for them and doesn't see them as so disposable. He makes an interesting comment that he now finds it easier to cut scenes because he knows they can be eventually included on the DVD.
For fans of bloopers, there are 12 minutes of included outtakes that consist chiefly of the actors blowing their lines or cracking up in the middle of scenes (which obviously happened a lot). In some strange way, it's oddly cathartic watching a seasoned pro like De Niro bust up while filming--it lets you know that he, too, makes mistakes.
In the category of "filler material," the disc includes two thematically related quiz games, "Lie Detector" and "Forecaster." These rather dorky inclusions involve answering yes-or-no questions that relate to scenes in the movie. The first game purports to determine whether or not you're lying, while the second determines how well you can suck up to future in-laws.
Lastly, the disc includes a good set of production notes and cast and crew biographies and filmographies, as well as some DVD-ROM material (more games, screensavers, and wallpaper), as well as the original theatrical trailer, presented in nonanamorphic widescreen.
Copyright © 2000, 2001 James Kendrick