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Meet the Parents(2000)
Greg Focker is head over heels in love with his girlfriend Pam, and is ready to pop the big question. Greg realizes the key to Pam's hand in marriage lies with her formidable father, Jack Byrnes. A trip to New York for her sister's wedding seems just the right occasion for Greg to ask Pam to be his wife. But everything that could possibly go wrong, does. Upon his arrival at the family's picturesque home, Greg is greeted by what appears to be the picture-perfect family. But for a guy who usually resorts to dry wit in stressful situations, Greg is suddenly shooting blanks with Jack, a retired horticulturist--and rather imposing figure. No one is good enough for Jack's first-born daughter, and the fact that Greg is a cat-hating male nurse with a vulgar-sounding last name is not helping things at all. While Greg bends over backwards to try and make a good impression, his weekend begins with lost luggage at the airport and turns into a series of disasters.
For more about Meet the Parents and the Meet the Parents Blu-ray release, see Meet the Parents Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on November 29, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Jay Roach
Writers: Jim Herzfeld, John Hamburg
Starring: Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, Nicole DeHuff, Jon Abrahams
» See full cast & crew
Meet the Parents Blu-ray Review
Gaylord's Irish Rose.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, November 29, 2010
Long before The Guinness Book of World Records was very well known on this side of the pond, there used to be a yearly compendium released by several different companies typically called something like World Almanac (insert year here). This large paperback volume listed both the previous year's major events, as well as having a variety of historical data on things both large and picayune. Of course the show business listings were of early interest to me, and alongside the year's largest grossing films was another list which documented Broadway's longest running shows of the previous season. Usually on the same page were the all time highest grossing films and, in counterpoint, the all time longest running Broadway shows. I was very curious about a Broadway title which remained ensconced atop the all time longest running list for the entire time I read the various World Alamanacs through my childhood, something called Abie's Irish Rose. This play had run an astounding 2,327 performances in its original Broadway engagement, which when broken down into actual calendrical time meant it was on the boards for well over five years. This was in the days before the internet, so a visit to the library was required to divine what this long running phenomenon was actually about, and I soon discovered it was a play about the cultural clash between two families, one Jewish and one Irish-Catholic, whose children had fallen in love and decided to get married. Of course that very same idea was visited some 50 years later in the television series Bridget Loves Bernie, which featured a couple who would later marry themselves, David Birney and Meredith Baxter. Ben Stiller may have drawn on personal experience, in the best Method "sense memory" tradition, for his portrayal of Greg Focker in Meet the Parents. After all, Stiller is himself the progeny of a Jewish father (Jerry Stiller) and an Irish-Catholic mother (Anne Meara). That often uncomfortable dialectic of two fairly diametrically opposed traditions is the very potent subtext of Meet the Parents, where Jew Greg finds himself ensconced in the very (and I mean very) goyische (that's WASP-y to you non-Jews) world of his hopeful soon to be fiancée Pam (Teri Polo) and her rather odd parents Jack (Robert De Niro) and Dina (Blythe Danner). It's therefore almost—almost—a minor plot point when Jack turns out to be an ex-CIA operative who is suspicious by nature and not about to let his daughter marry someone who hasn't been thoroughly vetted.
Meet the Parents is perhaps the single most squirm-worthy comedy in recent memory. This is humor which may not be especially raucous or laugh out loud hilarious, but which dances around the trepidation everyone has (or at least every guy has) about meeting his prospective spouse's parents. The film of course plays this tension to a farcical degree, but that makes it no less real, as odd as that may sound. De Niro has always been underrated as a comic actor, and he's in wonderfully fine form here, with his Jack seething with machismo and thinly veiled disdain for the shall we charitably say less than athletic Greg. But it's the daffy portrayal of Blythe Danner that actually may bring the most laughs to general audiences. Her Dina is simply a, well, blithe, if just slightly brain dead, woman whose nonstop cooking escapades feature titles like "poo poos."
Meet the Parents does deliver some socko set pieces, notably a magnificent domino scenario where Greg's penchant toward being accident prone virtually destroys Pam's familial home, but some of this humor, and in fact some of the funniest moments, are little throwaways that you might not even notice right away. While the film's most famous scene is probably the funny-horrifying polygraph sequence, there's comedic gold in some other, smaller moments. When Jack reveals that he's gone into the business of hiding "nanny cams" in various objects, he gives Greg a little Teddy Bear which houses a minicam. Greg holds it in his lap and soon notices on the display monitor that it's pointed right at his prospective mother-in-law's crotch, right when she's not exactly sitting in a ladylike position. Is this a hint at a Mrs. Robinson moment? (And stay tuned for more on a Dustin Hoffman-Ben Stiller linkage).
Stiller is still an overly mannered actor a lot of the time, but in this instance that tendency works toward the benefit of Greg. The stuttering, tripping, halting and restarting that Stiller indulges in here only ups the audience's feeling that something horrible is about to occur, and it almost always does. There are some beautiful moments in Meet the Parents where setups are deliciously delivered and then absurd, but often very funny (if occasionally tasteless), punch lines or visual gags follow. Director Jay Roach, who first rose to fame with the outrageous Austin Powers films, is remarkably restrained, at least when comparing Meet the Parents to its more shagadelic directorial cousin. Roach keeps the actors just this side—and I mean barely at times—of hyperbolic ridiculousness, and that makes the patently weird happenings at the Byrnes manse all the funnier.
It's more than a little interesting to compare Stiller to his soon to be Meet the Fockers father, Dustin Hoffman, especially in terms of how both of these actors has helped to redefine the Jewish male for modern American film audiences. When Hoffman hit the big time in The Graduate in 1967, he ushered in a whole new era of patently anti-"heroic" leading men, both in appearance and mannerisms. Stiller is no doubt Hoffman's filmic progeny and it only makes perfect sense that the two should be linked so closely by this series which elevates the struggle for Jews to assimilate into a foreign (to them) culture to almost mythic heights. If Stiller takes Hoffman's awkwardness to heretofore unexplored territory, perhaps that in and of itself is a certain kind of evolution. The Jew, as personified by Stiller and/or Hoffman, is still uncertain as to how to storm the WASPy gates, but the struggle goes on. If that means occasional quoting of songs from Godspell, so be it.
Meet the Parents has given birth to a new franchise, having been followed by Meet the Fockers and, coming to a cineplex near you soon, Little Fockers. This initial outing is brisk, deliberately outré a lot of the time, and wonderfully insane as it deconstructs our preconceptions not only about culture clashes, but in a very ingenious way, about Robert De Niro as an actor and persona. This may indeed be the humor of discomfort, but that doesn't make it any less funny.
Meet the Parents Blu-ray, Video Quality
Meet the Parents has a good to excellent VC-1 encoded transfer in 1080p and 1.85:1. While sharpness is excellent and colors are suitably robust, some waxy faces argue that Universal once again may have indulged in a bit of DNR, odd for a release this relatively recent. There is however a nice filmic texture to this transfer, with good depth and relatively intact grain structure. Colors here are very good, especially in some of the luscious location footage. Flesh tones are accurate and close-ups reveal excellent fine detail. The mischevious cat's every whisker can clearly be seen and textures on apparel are also very noticeable. Contrast is excellent, modulated very well from the interior shots at the Byrnes household to the many exterior sequences. This isn't a knock your socks off looking film to begin with, but taken with that caveat, and aside from a few relatively minor issues, this is a very good looking Blu-ray.
Meet the Parents Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There's likewise little to write home about with regard to Meet the Parents's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. What's here is just fine, make no mistake about it, but there simply isn't a lot of opportunity to exploit surround activity or engage boisterous LFE. Dialogue is cleanly and clearly presented, and often nicely directional, and there are occasional very good foley effects which up the sonic interest considerably. But this is clearly a largely dialogue driven character comedy and as such you shouldn't expect a glut of immersion or whiz bang effects soaring through the soundfield. The mix of dialogue, effects and score is expertly handled, there's top notch fidelity and everything gets the job done quite professionally.
Meet the Parents Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Meet the Parents has a nice slate of extras supplementing the main feature:
Meet the Parents Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Though my mother wasn't Irish-Catholic, I, like Ben Stiller, come from a mixed marriage of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, so that cultural dialectic is similarly knit into my DNA and may have contributed to my enjoyment of this film. Even those without this particular mixed cultural heritage will easily get a kick out Meet the Parents, though. Watching this film is an exercise in discomfort, a very narrow niche in the world of comedy, but it's handled with appropriate aplomb here and the result delivers some great comedy moments. This Blu-ray transfer is decently sharp and good sounding, and comes Highly recommended.
Meet the Parents: Other Editions
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Meet the Parents Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Little Fockers Movie Cash with Meet the Parents, Fockers & Other ... - September 17, 2010
Universal Studios Home Entertainment is offering $10 of movie money good for the upcoming theatrical release of Little Fockers (slated for December 22). Vouchers will be included, not only in the announced Blu-ray editions of Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers, ...
• Universal Announces Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers Blu-ray - September 9, 2010
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced that, on November 30, it will release the Ben Stiller/Robert De Niro 2000 comedy hit Meet the Parents and its even more successful 2004 sequel Meet the Fockers. They will be presented in single-sided (non-flipper) ...
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