There is a sub-category of comedy that can only be termed “comedies of excruciation,” in which we laugh at the hideously humiliating experiences of some poor sap. If this is your kind of humor, then this is your kind of movie.
Think about the most stressful emotional situation imaginable and, if you are past your teens and before your 15th high school reunion it is likely to be meeting the family of the person you love. Now imagine that your beloved’s father specialized in sweating the truth out of double agents in the CIA and all your worst fears about exposing every miserable incident in your whole miserable life come together into one endless nightmare.
That is the plot of “Meet Your Parents,” written by the screenwriter of the awful “Meet the Deedles” (who will we meet in his next movie?) and directed by the director of “Austin Powers.” Ben Stiller plays Greg, who loves Pam (“Felicity’s” Teri Polo) and wants to make a good impression on her father, Jack (Robert De Niro). But everything goes wrong. Jack’s natural over-protectiveness meets with Greg’s panicky clumsiness and, depending on your sense of humor, it is either hilarious or agonizing or both. There are many jokes about Greg’s name (Focker, get it?) and his occupation (nurse, which isn’t manly, get it?). The airline loses Greg’s suitcase, so he has to borrow bizarre clothes — enormous pants from Pam’s brother, a tiny Speedo bathing suit from Pam’s former fiancé. Jokes center on a catheter, a “Mountie strap-on dildo,” a cat who uses the toilet, a cat strung out on nicotine gum, a fire, and an overflowing septic tank. Greg is compared to Pam’s sister’s fiancé, a doctor, and to Pam’s former boyfriend, now fabulously wealthy and still pining for her. Greg, who is Jewish, is asked to say grace at dinner, and can only helplessly babble the lyrics from “Godspell.” And, in the movie’s high point, Greg has to cope with the only situation more grueling than a terrifying in-law — airline bureaucracy.
Parents should know that the movie has some strong language, drug use, sexual references and situations, and potty humor.
Families who see the movie should talk about how some people may make us feel uncomfortable and inadequate, and about how even non-CIA families have a “circle of trust” that is very important to them. They may want to discuss how families see the people who want to marry a member, and what they can do to get to know one another, and talk about some of their own experiences.
Families who enjoy this movie will also like The In-Laws and The Freshman as well as the sequel, Meet the Fockers.