First comes love. Then comes the interrogation.
Meet the Parents is a 2000 comedy film directed by Jay Roach, written by Jim Herzfeld and John Hamburg, produced by TriBeCa Productions and Nancy Tenenbaum Productions, and distributed by Universal Pictures. The film stars Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller. The film was nominated for Best Original Song, but did not win. This is the first film in the Meet the Parents series. It was followed by Meet the Fockers.
"I have nipples, Greg. Can you milk me?" -Jack Byrnes
Greg Focker and Pam Byrnes are in love. As Greg plans to propose to Pam, he decides that he should consult her parents first. When he meets her parents, however, her dad takes an immediate dislike to him. With the weekend as the only chance to propose, Greg must prove himself to the uptight father. Unfortunately, the weekend turns into a nightmarish disaster of events.
The first thing that I have on this is the tension in the film. The film is meant to be awkward and uncomfortable, and they really succeed at doing that. Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller craft this weird chemistry that doesn't feel right and makes you cringe when Ben Stiller's character does something wrong. There are scenes that are incredibly hard to watch, but that was the point of the movie. The standout here is the scene where Greg causes the fire. It is so unbearable and cringy, which is really good.
De Niro and Stiller are good. I thought that they had incredible chemistry and did a good job. De Niro was definitely out of his dramatic, dark ballpark, and he does a good job of being in a comedy. Stiller is funny as well. The highlights are the scene were he confronts Jack Byrnes about Operation Ko Samui and the final scene when Jack watches Greg threaten him with ninja moves.
The plot and some of the characters are good. I thought that the plot is very clever and fun, but, as I've previously mentioned, it's intentionally very uncomfortable. The plot is a complete nightmare for Greg and it is fun to watch event after event after event just destroy Greg. I thought that Jack Byrnes was a great character. I thought that the small twist where it was revealed that he was a retired CIA agent just added the icing to the cake.
The biggest thing about this film is that it doesn't really have a lot of laugh-out-loud moments. Stiller has the two funniest moments, but the rest of the movie isn't that funny. That's a big problem when your movie is a comedy. There are moments that you'll look back at and think "Huh. That was kind of funny.", but it would be a moment that you would chuckle for a sec at, but not a moment that you would laugh out loud at, such as you would in Airplane! or Anchorman. What's even worse is the concepts and ideas were funny, but they were executed in a terrible fashion. For example, when Greg's real name is revealed as Gaylord, it isn't really that funny, because the reveal is right after a really depressing scene.
I also think that the side characters are weak. I thought that none of them were funny and we didn't know them well enough for them to be likable. The side characters are all part of the Byrnes family, except for Kevin, but none of them really have arcs and they are all just there. Even Pam Byrnes, who is supposed to be a central character, doesn't really get any big moments. She's just there to feel bad for Greg while the rest of the family is making fun of him and singling him out.
I also don't really think that Jack's change of heart at the end is explained. It was just Dina Byrnes telling Jack that he should think about Pam, and then he decides that the man who destroyed their house and lied to them should be Pam's husband. It didn't really make any sense that Pam would forgive him literally immediately and then accept his proposal. I understand that this is a movie, but that still doesn't make any sense at all.
I think that the side actors are not that good. Teri Polo is boring and doesn't give her character any memorable personality traits. Part of that is the writing. I think that Pam Byrnes is not written very well. However, Teri Polo does the same thing over and over and over again, always protecting Greg until the very end. Blythe Danner is kind of the same as Teri Polo. She was very nice to Greg, but boring and bland. Even Owen Wilson delivers all of his lines with a monotonous voice and doesn't show any emotion.
Despite two good leads and a clever plot, this film suffers from being a comedy without many funny moments, some nonsense and bad side actors.
I'll give it a Sour rating. Age range is 10+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
"Meet the Parents"
Fun Factor: 6/10
WHERE TO WATCH
Amazon Prime Video: Available for rent
Apple TV+: Available for rent
Directed by Jay Roach
Released on October 6, 2000
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, language
1 hour and 48 minutes
Robert De Niro as Jack Byrnes
Ben Stiller as Gaylord "Greg" Focker
Teri Polo as Pam Byrnes
Blythe Danner as Dina Byrnes
Owen Wilson as Kevin Rawley
Nicole DeHuff as Deborah Byrnes
Jon Abrahams as Denny Byrnes