Zany MEET THE PARENTS Deserves Sequel
If you are a cat lover, you have nothing to lose but your composure while watching the hilarious antics of Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents, an offbeat comedy featuring an unusual feline named Jinx.
De Niro plays Stillerís prospective father-in-law, a man who loves Jinx so much he teaches the animal a variety of tricks, including how to use the bathroom instead of a litter box. Stiller, the wannabe son-in-law, goes overboard in his efforts to please the older man. Trying to hide his hate for cats, he also lies about other things. This results in a series of outrageous situations that showcase the excellent comedic talents of both actors. De Niroís portrayal here of a paranoid ex-CIA operative made me laugh almost as much as his therapy-seeking mobster in Analyze This. And Stiller comes close to matching his peak comic performance in Thereís Something About Mary.
"Cats make you work to earn their affection, but dogs are emotionally shallow animals," Jack Byrnes (De Niro) instructs Greg Focker (Stiller) during their first meeting. Since the eager suitor plans to ask Jack for his daughterís hand in marriage, he listens carefully. When Jack asks him to say grace before their first family dinner together, itís obvious Greg has never done such a thing in his life. Nevertheless, our hero fakes it by making up a lengthy prayer that ends with words sounding suspiciously like lyrics from the song "Day by Day."
Then, after Jinx is lost, Greg finds a look-alike cat, spray paints its tail, and passes it off as the original --- which makes him a hero until the imposter is discovered. In the meantime, he manages to ruin the wedding rehearsal of his girlfriendís sister and to desecrate the remains of a beloved family member. (Sorry, but to say more about this latter goof would spoil the filmís most amusing scene for viewers who havenít seen the movie yet.)
Although Meet the Parents belongs to De Niro and Stiller, they receive excellent support from Blythe Danner, Owen Wilson, and Teri Polo. Polo (from televisionís Felicity) masters the "look of love" for someone acting as unlovable as Stillerís character, and Danner (Forces of Nature) projects a forced optimism that seems just right for a mother trying to bring harmony out of chaos. Scene-stealer Wilson (Shanghai Noon) works his tongue-in-cheek magic as Poloís very successful ex-boyfriend. Showing off his plush home to Greg, he compares his carpentry to that of "The big J.C., you know," referring to Jesus Christ.
Meet the Parents is not without faults. It contains too many jokes about Stillerís character being Jewish, a male nurse, and having a last name (Focker) that can be mispronounced. In addition, one sequence requires him to go completely out of character by glaring and gesturing angrily at De Niro during a car-race --- surely no way to win a prospective father-in-lawís respect.
Still, there were enough laughs and plot twists to hold my interest throughout this quirky film. In fact, Iím eagerly awaiting a sequel. It could show what happens when Gregís in-laws meet his own folks. If weíre lucky, Gregís mom and dad will be played by Mike Nichols and Elaine May.
(Released by Universal Pictures and rated "PG-13" for sexual content, drug references, and language.)