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Meet the Parents: Special edition (12)



Review: Jack Foley

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Out-takes. Deleted scenes. Silly Cat Tricks. The Truth About Lying. Regions 2/4.

GREAT comedy works best when it trades on the familiar and there is not a person among us who hasn't had to go through the nervous ordeal that is meeting the girlfriend's parents. Austin Powers director Jay Roach takes this scenario and turns it into a disaster of epic proportions so that everything that can go wrong does - and more!

Ben Stiller, rapidly emerging as the king of this kind of comedy, is the hapless male nurse, Greg Focker, whose proposal to his sweetheart Pam (Teri Polo) is put on hold when he discovers that the key to her hand in marriage lies with her formidable father, Jack Byrnes (played with relish by Robert DeNiro).

Needless to say, the ensuing trip to New York gets off to a bad start (involving lost luggage) and just keeps getting worse as Focker attempts to win over a man for whom no one is considered good enough for his first born daughter.

As Byrnes, an ex-CIA operative turned doting dad, DeNiro delivers possibly his finest comic turn yet as the slightly eccentric, but oh-so serious father who will stop an nothing to expose Focker's unsuitability.

His ruthless manipulation of Focker's predicament, coupled with his priceless expressions of disapproval, cleverly draw in elements of previous roles in the likes of The Untouchables and Taxi Driver, so that viewers can't help but feel for Focker and his subsequent ordeal.

And as the put-upon Focker, Stiller turns in another brilliant comic turn (to match those in There's Something About Mary and this year's Keeping The Faith) as he attempts to bend over backwards to impress the Byrnes against insurmountable odds.

The DeNiro/Stiller double act is a delight and one of the many reasons the film works as well as it does. Credit should also go to director Roach and to Jim Herzfeld and John Hamburg - who based their screenplay on a story by Greg Glienna and Mary Ruth Clarke - for keeping the proceedings fresh and always laugh-out-loud funny.

The trio don't just rely on toilet humour and cheap shots for easy giggles (although there are some provided, as in the pronunciation of Focker's surname), choosing instead to slowly build the jokes so that when they finally arrive, they are that much funnier.

Hence, you know that some terrible fate lies in store for DeNiro's beloved, house trained cat from the moment it is introduced and that his mother's prized ashes are sure to meet some disaster, yet you can't help but chuckle when it does or cringe with embarrassment for the unlucky Focker!

It comes as no surprise, therefore, when Byrne eventually decides to hook Focker up to a lie detector test to find out more about his future son-in-law in another comic highpoint. There is also much amusement to be gained from the script, which excels by giving its actors plenty to work with.

As a result, moments such as the debate involving cats, dogs and humans provide plenty of food for thought, as well as the required chuckles.

The fact that Meet The Parents did so well at the US Box Office (where it spent four weeks at number one) is, perhaps, testament to the sheer feelgood factor of the movie - it has a tremendous amount of appeal and does not squander its talent.

Even when things threaten to get too `Hollywood' at the end, Roach throws in a terrific payoff and allows Stiller to finally throw off the shackles of a hitherto subdued performance.

The scene ensures you will leave the cinema with a big smile on your face. In a year characterised by how gross comedies can get, or how many movies they can parody, this is the one exception to the rule - an intelligent, adult comedy which has plenty of ideas of its own. For that reason alone, it should definitely be seen

 

 

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