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IN SHORT: Very funny with a big "if"... [Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug references and language. minutes]
As we were walking out of the sneak preview of Meet the Parents, another critic waived us down and asked "Is it any good?" We asked him, "Have you see the trailer?" He said "No." We said "Yes."
Now, we must point out that the one advantage of going to sneak previews and private screenings is that we don't get to see trailers of forthcoming movies. They are just not shown at these screenings. But every once in a while a film is so bad that the studio won't show it to us, not the case here, so we have to go and buy a ticket. It is there that we, unfortunately, see trailers and once, a long time ago, we happened to see the trailer for Meet the Parents, which had us truly stoked.
The good news is that there are some very funny jokes in Meet the Parents that are not included in the trailer. The bad news is that there aren't enough of them. Simply put, the less you know -- and this includes some of the television commercials for this project -- the better off you'll be. If you've seen too much, you've seen just about all there is to see.
Confining ourselves to the shortest of commercials, Meet the Parents is a tale of one of the most stressful times in any single man's life, the first meeting with the parents of his potential bride. In this case Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) hasn't popped the question, though he did come up with a very clever way to do it. Bad timing, in this case, forces postponement of the proposal, pushes up the first meeting with "almost Dad-in-Law" and provides Greg with the information that he would be much wiser to first asked dad's permission for daughters hand in marriage. Oh, and bring a present.
Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro), the potential new dad in law is a retired florist, a stern looking and imposing WASP, which presents all sorts of comic situations because Greg is a Member of the Tribe. This script limits the Jew-not Jew jokes to one, though it could have gotten away with more. The one it chose to make isn't necessarily all that funny -- of course, Cranky is a Long Island Jew who spent years dating WASP-types, so I've heard them all. As that first day progresses into first evening, it turns out that Jack is not the retired florist that Greg had expected. No, he's got a lie detector stowed away in the basement and thorough knowledge of how to use it. Jack, it is revealed, used to investigate suspected double agents for the CIA. Years and years working with spies has left him suspicious, paranoid, controlling and over protective of his number one daughter, Pam (Teri Polo). The old man has strict rules as to how to behavior in his abode and these rules are enforced, it is implied, by cameras hidden throughout the house. Rather than being saddled with a father in law from hell, Greg gets to learn firsthand what living in hell would be like in the course of this one very long weekend.
De Niro tweaks his tough guy image to a tee in this flick and Stiller so perfectly screws up every opportunity to make points with the Old Man that we'd say Meet the Parents is busted gut waiting to happen . . .
Damn, a wish I hadn't seen the trailer. I would be a hell of a lot more enthusiastic about the movie. The crowd Cranky sat with, lucky unspoiled gits, were rolling at jokes we'd already heard. Gut bursting laughter. Just when we thought we'd have to keel over and die from familiarity, the final act came around with a fresh hopper filled with visual gags and a couple of scripted zingers. It left us flipping a coin to decide which rating number we put on the thing. Since we've always favored the audience reaction, we've put that number down, and then our gut reaction.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Meet the Parents, he would have paid...
That's if you haven't seen the trailer and most of the commercials. Meet the Parents is still a good dateflick if you've seen a commercial but not a trailer. If, like me, you've already seen the full length trailer, don't spend the cash. Wait and rent.
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