Robert De Niro is one of my all time favorite actors. He's made some truly great American films: TAXI DRIVER, RAGING BULL, GOODFELLAS (among others with director Martin Scorsese), THE DEER HUNTER, ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA and THE GODFATHER PART II to name a few. At some point in his career, De Niro turned to comedy with some terrific results. I'm looking at you MIDNIGHT RUN and ANALYZE THIS. But De Niro's presence alone isn't enough to elevate MEET THE PARENTS (2000) to the level of greatness.
It's not a bad little film at all. In fact, I got a few good laughs out of it when Judy and I recently watched it as part of our Friday Night Thrift Store Theater. We had seen it years ago, back when were dating and I thought it would be fun to revisit the film. Ben Stiller stars as a hapless young man named Gaylord Focker (and boy, does that set-up generate a lot of jokes) engaged to Pam (Teri Polo). They go home to meet her parents, Jack (De Niro) and Dina (Blythe Danner) for a long weekend in which everything that can go wrong does. Jack is a retired CIA counterintelligence officer and he treats Focker like he's an enemy agent subjecting him to constant surveillance and a lie detector test.
This is the kind of movie where you not only see the gags coming, you see them visibly slow down and signal for a turn. It's not bad overall but there are only a couple of really funny scenes. The rest is just constant humiliation for poor Focker.
The film, made on a budget of $55 million, went on to earn over $160 million in North America. That kind of money insured that two sequels followed, MEET THE FOCKERS (2004) and LITTLE FOCKERS (2010). I haven't seen either one and really have no desire to do so.
Here's an interesting bit of trivia. MEET THE PARENTS was originally made in 1992. Greg Glienna (who?) directed and starred in this version. The property was acquired by Universal for a big budget remake and at one time, Oscar winner Steven Spielberg was set to direct with Jim Carrey in the lead. That would have been an interesting movie. Instead, we get director Jay Roach and a screenplay by Jim Herzfel and John Hamburg based on the original material.
MEET THE PARENTS is worth seeing at least once. I enjoy watching De Niro play comedy. It isn't his best but you could do worse.