The basic plot of Meet the Parents is not overdone too much in America’s movie world of family comedies, romantic comedies, or comedies in general. The premise is that Ben Stiller’s character, Greg Focker, is going to visit his girlfriend’s parents’ home to meet them for the first time. The problem: Robert De Niro plays the girlfriend’s father, an ex-CIA agent with high standards for son-in-laws. When Focker arrives he is instantly subjected to scrutiny and as his blood pressure rises things go from bad to worse.
Stiller and De Niro are amazingly funny and play off of each other with hilarious results. There are great moments between all of the characters, driving scenes at the dinner table, playing pool volleyball, and uncomfortable car rides. The humorous tension between Stiller and De Niro will have you pulling at your collar for relief, but in a good way. This is a great family movie because there is very little cussing, bodily function jokes/moments, and no real violence or sex of any kind. (Not that I don’t like these aspects in a movie, it depends on the movie, but, come on, not every movie.) The comedy is mostly situational and works wonderfully between the film’s dynamic characters. Ben Stiller’s performance alone is painfully realistic and creates so much sympathy for his character Greg Fokker you can’t help but laugh from feeling his heartache, mishap after mishap.
Of course, his attempts to lie his way out of situations almost never makes things any better for him in the eyes of De Niro, who frowns on any sign of weakness or mistruth. But De Niro’s character doesn’t lean on the CIA persona as a crutch. Many writers would easily go for the drill sergeant type that would simply be unable to please. In this case, the character is more complex and three dimensional than the quick out: a tough and rough father to daddy’s little girl. His character is a cat-lover, which he trains to do tricks and baby talks to, he loves his daughter, and he is always seen wearing comfy sweaters and petting his cat. His game is a mental one, full of disapproving looks and only-one-right-answer questions.
I think the real problem is that by now everyone has seen enough movies based on comedic frustration and you-just-can’t-win situations, constantly struggling to get your point across and have others see the world your way. For instance, Ryan O’Neal in What’s Up Doc, Tom Hanks in The Money Pit, Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets. Monotonous yet? Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty, Adam Sandler in Anger Management, or Ben Stiller in Duplex, to name a few. Even though it’s really funny, there’s nothing so special in Meet the Parents that makes it stand out in a film crowd. Sure they have some quirks, the cat uses the toilet, Stiller wears a Speedo, and a polygraph test is De Niro’s way of getting to know Stiller. But aren’t those just gimmicks? A toilet-trained cat is not a strong enough support beam to hold up a movie beyond what’s already out there.
And sequels? I’d rather not talk about it. I haven’t see Meet the Fockers, which comes out on DVD on April 19. In it De Niro and family now go home with Stiller to meet his parents, but I can’t imagine it really (to quote Emeril) kicking it up another notch to the point that I would want to buy any kind of box set in a year or two. Meet the Parents is good, I’m not saying that it isn’t, but it’s not overly remarkable when compared to its peers. I would suggest seeing it. It’s funny. Stiller is great. De Niro is great. You just won’t see anything new in the way of comedy and the formula it takes to make it effective, but then again, you might be laughing hard enough not to notice.
Now, the answer to the question you’ve all been waiting for. What about the extras? Not very good!
Aside from the fact that the only reason it seems the “bonus edition” came out at all was to sell more DVDs (because this disc has extra extras), promote Meet the Fockers, and shove EarthLink down your throat, the bonus features are pretty bland. The first “page” on the disc already says the bonus materials are brought to you by EarthLink. Gag. There’s no mention of EarthLink in the film, so why would they have anything to do with it? There’s even an insert that says…(picture a used car salesman winking at you sideways while he snaps his fingers and points) “you’ve met the parents…now it’s time to meet the blockers.” On the bonus materials page, it tells you to see more outtakes exclusively at MeetTheBlockers.com. So, what is that? What is a blocker and what does it have to do with Meet the Parents? Well, they don’t care about the movie, they want to sell you virus blocker, spyware blocker, and scam blocker. Who is it again? The disc tells you, again. EarthLink. To me, this is the most shameless disgusting aspect of the whole package. It’s not bad enough that we get spam emails and pop-up ads all the time when we’re online. But now we have to deal with product placement even when there is none within the film itself. If you could see my face, it would be red.
Now to the real extras. This will be very short and not very sweet. The outtakes: too quiet to get any of the jokes or crack-ups that are happening. All-new outtakes (as opposed to “new” outtakes, these are “all-new”): louder than the originals but basically the same as the originals, this time with music in the background. Deleted scenes: too quiet to hear and don’t change anything in the story. De Niro unplugged, the box says it’s an “uproariously funny deleted scene of Robert De Niro singing during the wedding.” You already have to worry if the writers for the box are using the term “uproariously.” This is the same box that shows De Niro holding a black cat on the front when the cat in the film is a Himalayan. The “unplugged” is an intentional scene, not funny or spontaneous (like the Easter egg on Spiderman 2 where Alfred Molina sings “If I Were a Rich Man” while dressed as Doc Ock). This was a planned out scene, with a planned out song, and it comes off looking staged, so I’m glad they didn’t show it in the movie and wish they had kept it to themselves when it came to the extras.
The same holds true for the section “Jay Roach: A Director’s Profile.” There was no profile and the man doesn’t even speak in the whole thing. It’s nothing but time lapse video of him working, set to music. Here and there they split to screen to two mirror images of the same shot or cut it into a grid of four small screens. OOOOOH. Truly some kind of CGI at its best. This is basic Paint program workshop stuff a kid could do with pictures of his dog on the computer. I kept thinking any minute now it will stop and we’ll be watching Roach sitting in his chair discussing the film. Nope. It ended and I was back at the EarthLink page, er, um, Menu page. Likewise, the commentary with Roach and editor Jon Pill was tedious and fairly uninteresting.
The only good features there are two of the “bonus” ones. “The Truth About Lying” is information about polygraphs straight from an expert in detecting deception. This is pretty interesting and informative and should have been longer and so they could have gotten rid of the 35 “all-new” yet redundant clips. Finally, “Silly Cat Tricks” was good, probably because I’ve studied animal behavior and happen to like cats. I don’t know that anyone else would be that interested to watch a woman use a buzzer from the game Taboo to train a cat to climb up a trellis, or teach them to sit on a toilet, but I liked it. Basically, the extras can go down the drain when the cat flushes, and if you only want to see the movie would this DVD still be worth renting.