Ben Stiller goes to bat this week in my Tower Heist teaser series with the 2000 film Meet the Parents. Gaylord ‘Greg’ Focker (Ben Stiller) is about to propose to his girlfriend, Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo), but learns it is proper to ask for her dad’s permission first. Since they are traveling to her parents’ home for her sister’s wedding, Greg decides to propose once he’s made a good impression on her father, Jack (Robert De Niro). From the trip’s onset, Greg has a run of bad luck that only gets worse once he meets the parents.
I have now seen Meet the Parents three times. The first time it was the most unfunny comedy I thought I had ever seen. Then it got rave reviews and earned a shitpot full of money so I watched it again assuming I was in a bitter funk the first go ’round. Nope, still lame. Over a decade later, along comes my vault review and, glutton for punishment that I am, I watched it AGAIN to see if my opinion would somehow change. Third times a charm, right? Wrong! Unlike wine, it does not get better with age.
I am not a huge Ben Stiller fan, but I’ll be the first to say when he’s on, he’s on fire. I can name a half dozen of his roles that are hilarious, but Greg Focker is not among them. Greg’s name, his occupation, his bad habits and even his good ones are all joke fodder. The character reeks of desperation as he scrambles to impress De Niro’s scrutinizing, hard ass. Absolutely every possible thing that can go wrong for Greg does and that’s just not funny, it’s cruel. Focker is the epitome of comedic overkill.
It’s not that I don’t get the jokes; I do, but I feel no need to laugh. The comedic scenes are spoon-fed; all that is missing is the canned laughter. I’m not saying that it’s a complete dud, it does have a few funny moments. I get a kick out of Pam’s ex, Kevin (Owen Wilson). He’s so perfect that it’s creepy in a funny way. Yep… he’s pretty funny.
The pacing of Meet the Parents is incredibly tedious. It’s so dull I have time to note all the inconsistencies. Greg’s luggage is lost by the airline, yet he can somehow fit into the clothes of three different men. The wedding staging area, i.e. the Byrnes’ backyard, is totally destroyed by septic spillage and fire, yet landscaping, plumbing and electrical crews arrive the same day to fix everything. Plus Jack is the type of character who wouldn’t have a nearly overflowing septic tank or a leaky toilet in the first place. The scenes serve the jokes, not the continuity.
I’m fairly certain there was a good idea in there somewhere. Had to be since this is a remake of a 1992 indie film by the same name. That film is apparently MIA now, but this Meet the Parents is now a series of what I assume are equally unfunny films.