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Meet the Parents
Greg Focker (Ben Stiller), whose real name is actually Gaylord, is finally ready to propose to his girlfriend Pam (Teri Polo). After being invited to the wedding of her sister, Debbie, however, Greg temporarily puts the proposal on hold. Learning that Pam's parents are a little old school and prefer being asked permission for their daughter's hand in marriage, Greg decides it's best to wait until he can pop the question in front of her family. After all, he's never met Jack (Robert De Niro) or Dina (Blythe Danner) before, and he wants to make sure he starts things off on the right foot with his future in-laws. And besides, that's how Debbie's fiancé got the approval of her parents, and Greg certainly doesn't want to be known as the son-in-law that has no respect for his wife's family. But of course, as typical for any guy that's about to meet the parents of his significant other, Greg is shaking in his boots. Pam recognizes Greg's anxiety over the situation and assures him that he's a nice guy, and that her parents are going to love him.
Boy, was she wrong.
Instead of yucking it up with Jack and receiving his blessing, Greg is practically accosted for the differences in his personality, as well as his career choice to be a male nurse. I mean, Debbie's marrying a doctor. Why should Pam settle for a lowly nurse? Seeing his future with Pam collapse in front of his very eyes, Greg decides to suck up his hurt feelings and do whatever he can to impress her father. The more that poor ole' Greg tries however, the more Pam's family hates him. Still though, lover boy is adamant to make things work out in the end, but his optimism begins to falter when Jack straps him to a lie-detector and begins quizzing him about his relationship with Pam. If that wasn't scary enough, Greg later learns that Jack is a retired CIA operative. After discovering this shocking revelation and being told by everyone to just go back home until the wedding is over, including his fiancé, Greg is ready to tuck his tail between his legs and hop on the first plane that can take him back to his old life. In the end, it's up to Pam to get her father to appreciate Greg for the person that he is... but will she be too late?
Meet the Parents is a hysterical film... up to a point, but I'll get to that in a bit. First and foremost, watching De Niro partake in a comedy is always a treat. However, it's rather unfortunate that whenever you mention De Niro to someone, the first thing that comes to their mind is usually Goodfellas or Casino. His work in Analyze This, Analyze That, or even his supporting role as a gay pirate in Stardust, tends to fall by the wayside. A lot of people to this day fail to realize De Niro's comedic brilliance, but this is the film that showcases that talent best. I mean, we all know that De Niro is capable of keeping a deadly serious straight face, to the point where he's able to make us feel uncomfortable for whoever it is he's grilling on-screen, but Meet the Parents reminds us that he's also a master with timing. That timing doesn't go to waste either, because the interactions between De Niro and Stiller are perfection. Stiller constantly bumbles and stammers his way through delicate conversations, building up the suspense to laughter... and then boom. De Niro tears him down with a single line, all the while keeping a nearly deadpan expression on his face. The end result for the audience most of the time is a gut-busting roar... but again, only to a point.
Meet the Parents isn't a perfect film, and that's because it just doesn't know when to let up on poor ole' Greg. Sure, I had buckets of tears pouring out of my eyes from the laughter the first three-quarters of the film induced, but so many things end up going wrong for Greg (and each predicament is hilariously worse than the preceding one), that the 'dump the crap on Greg' routine eventually gets old. For me, the film literally stopped being funny. Instead of holding my sides and wondering when the laughter was going to let up so I could breathe again, I found myself holding my head, shouting, "Oh, come on! Enough already!" There's only so much torture you can watch a human being go through, even if said person is a fictional character, before you start feeling sorry for them... and when that happens, the comedy is over. When you reach that point in a film, all you're waiting for is some kind of 'happily ever after' resolution. I don't know about you, but I don't consider hoping the film to end to be a positive thing.
That being said, the negative aspects of Meet the Parents are dramatically outweighed by the positive ones. Despite the flaws that make the final half our of the film a little tough to swallow, all of the interactions between De Niro and Stiller more than make up for it. It truly is a shame that the sequel, Meet the Fockers, was another typical Hollywood 'less than' follow-up, because I could watch these two guys go back and forth all day. Now, I know some of you out there aren't Ben Stiller fans, but if you haven't taken an opportunity to see Meet the Parents yet, I suggest you put your bias aside for a couple of hours and give it a shot. He's a little more 'reeled in' for this particular role, and the end result is that he's absolutely perfect as Gaylord "Greg" Focker. A good majority of comedies come and go without a second glance. They offer little to no replay value because after a punch line has been delivered once, it never holds up well enough for a second or third viewing. However, Meet the Parents is one of those films that offers quite a bit of replay value, as the back and forth between De Niro and Stiller never gets stale. If you've held out for nearly a decade to check this film out, do yourself a favor and stop holding out!
Meet the Parents makes its Blu-ray debut with a decent, although inconsistent, 1080p VC-1 encode (1.85:1). Starting off the comments about the video on a positive note, colors are more impressive than I expected them to be, as they're bold yet natural in their appearance. Flesh tones are accurate enough throughout most of the film, although they do tend to take on a warmer look on occasion. Contrast isn't perfect, but it's suitable enough to keep the picture from ever looking muted or muddy, and in combination with a natural level sharpness, does a good job of conveying a good sense of depth more often than not. Unfortunately for Meet the Parents however, this is a Universal property... and we all know what that means - They've tweaked the source a bit to 'clean things up' with a little DNR, but don't jump out of your chair to grab your pitchfork just yet. It doesn't appear that the 'DNR dial' has been cranked to an offensive degree, as there's still a respectable amount of detail on faces and clothing, as well as grain structure, left intact. Even some of the dirt/specks have been left untouched by the process, making this release to look pretty film-like most of the time. That being said, there are plenty of dependant shots throughout (probably the ones that had a heavier grain structure than what was the norm for the rest of the film) where grain practically disappears, leaving faces to look waxy. So, fine detail throughout the entirety of the film can tend to be a mixed bag. There's also some minor edge enhancement that's been applied here and there.
After all was said and done, I didn't find this to be the definitive release that we've been waiting for in terms in picture quality, but the minor issues throughout were never offensive enough to take me out of the film. This is a pretty nice step-up from DVD, so I wouldn't hesitate to upgrade if that's the only version of the film you own.
As far as a comparison to the HD-DVD is concerned, I can't give a definitive answer as I no longer own that release (or an HD-DVD player for that matter). Take this with a grain of salt, but I do believe the Blu-ray to be slightly better with better color and flesh tone reproduction. If anyone owns both releases currently however and wishes to comment on what they see, feel free to message me and I'll gladly update this section of my review.
Meet the Parent's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track isn't impressive, but that's really more of a complaint about the mix than the encode itself. This film deals mostly in dialogue, which comes across much crisper and cleaner than the DVD. There's some ambience provided on occasion by the surround channels, but it's never enough to ever come close to being immersive, even for what we'd expect from a dialogue driven comedy. All in all, this is the best Meet the Parents has ever sounded, and probably the best it ever will sound.
Commentary with Director Jay Roach and Editor Jon Poll / Commentary with Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Director Jay Roach and Producer Jane Rosenthal - These commentary tracks complement each other nicely, as the first one with the Director and Editor provide a real wealth of information about the film's production in its entirety. Of course, if you're not a fan of commentary tracks in any way, shape, or form, then you're probably going to want to skip this one. But, fan of commentaries or not, you really owe it to yourself to listen to the track featuring Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller. Listening to these two actors react to one another behind-the-mic and without a script is almost as much of a treat as watching them on film together, so don't miss out on this one no matter who you are!
Spotlight on Location - This is pretty much your standard behind-the-scenes featurette that sports plenty of production footage, as well as numerous interviews to tie it all together.
Deleted Scenes (With Optional commentary by Director Jay Roach and Editor Jon Poll) - Honestly, the two deleted scenes provided really aren't that bad, but they ultimately would have harmed the film by messing with the pace.
Outtakes - Outtakes featuring Ben Stiller and more importantly, Robert De Niro. Need I say more?
De Niro Unplugged - Mr. De Niro gives singing a shot... and fails miserably. This is the kind of thing that nobody would expect De Niro to try and do while a camera is rolling, and the payoff is laughs by the boat-load. This is a must see.
The Truth About Lying - Ever wonder how a polygraph really works? This featurette spends nearly seven minutes educating us about the subject, so you'll walk away practically an expert.
Silly Cat Tricks - All I have to say about this is I'm really glad I'm not a Hollywood pet trainer. It requires a lot of time and patience, both of which I'm usually pretty short on.
Jay Roach: A Director's Profile - What. The. Hell. Is. This? It's just a montage featuring the Director over techno music, and is only a little over a minute in length. The only reason I'd recommend watching this, is so you can believe at just how amateurish and painfully bad it is. Please, please do yourself a favor and skip this.
Also included is the Theatrical Trailer.
If you were a fan of The Forecaster Game or Take the Lie Detector Test features from the second DVD and HD-DVD releases, they're nowhere to be found. They were pretty lame however, so I can't imagine anyone complaining that they're not available here. As far as the real meat and bones of the supplements released over the last decade, they're all here.
Meet the Parents is a riot, and I'm glad to see that it's finally made its Blu-ray debut. Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller are the perfect team, and are undoubtedly the reason why this film is still making audiences laugh a decade after its release. It may not be a perfect film, but the positives outweigh the negatives by a landslide. The only problem is that many of you probably already own this film in one form or another, and are weary of dipping yet again. To that I say, although the Blu-ray has some digital tampering by way of DNR, the benefits of this release over the DVD are substantial. Also, the Blu-ray contains all of the important special features from both standard-def editions, so you won't be missing out on anything by upgrading either. Even if you already own the HD-DVD I'd recommend this Blu-ray to you, as I find the color and flesh tone reproduction to be a bit more accurate this time around (again though, take this with a grain of salt). For those of you who have never seen this film however, you owe it to yourself to take the time to do so.
-About the Author- Michael Zupan is primarily a film guy, but has a variety of places where you can enjoy his work otherwise. Check Bytesizeimpressions.com for video game op-ed pieces and podcasts, and be sure to check out the sister site, Byte-Size Cinema, linked up top. This writer also contributes significantly to in-print magazines such as Minecraft Explorer and Fortnite Explorer!