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"Meet the Parents"

Directed by Jay Roach.
Written by Jim Herzfeld and John Hamburg.  Based on the 1992 film of the same name. 
Starring Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro.
Release Year:  2000 
Review Date:  10/15/00 

Folks--

So, I had a few recommendations from current Bellview members to see the Robert De Niro/Ben Stiller comedy "Meet the Parents", so I showed up today with Sonja "The Serb" Vincic for a little Saturday matinee.  For the first time in the month, I saw a movie that did not have any children under four in the audience.  As a useful substitute, though, I had a twosome of ladies sitting in my row where only one of them knew how to speak English...so, the English speaker decided to loudly dub the translation for her friend, who kept asking things like, "What does 'marriage' mean?"  Argh.  Anyway, did I like it?  Well, I will need to pull out some scenes from the movie to explain, so this is the part where I give some of the movie away.

WARNING:  KEY DETAILS OF MOVIE ABOUT TO BE DISCUSSED.

Just in case you were skimming, you know?  Okay, so here were the good thoughts that Sonja and I came up with:

  • De Niro and Stiller pairing features some pretty good lines.  Stiller at the dinner table saying grace and Stiller's final tirade on the plane had me rolling.

  • Owen Wilson cameo (as Kevin, Pam's fiancé) is funny and not gratuitous.

  • Funny ending...real funny ending.

So, beyond that, here were my two biggest problems with this movie besides its reasonably slow intro:

1.  The Murphy's Law movie syndrome.  You know, movies where every single thing that could possibly go wrong for the lead character does go wrong for 98% of the movie...and then, amazingly, at the end Stiller still gets the girl.  Come on!

2.  Ben Stiller, clumsy Jewish innocent victim.  Truth be told, Stiller has played this same character like 15 times.  He is so good at it that I truly believe this is Ben Stiller's real life personality.  So, Stiller plays a male nurse that is trying to win the hand of a daughter of De Niro's ex-CIA father...and, takes all of De Niro's shit for almost three-fourths of the movie and then FINALLY gets tough and angry by the end of the film.  I think that the film would have been a lot funnier if Stiller had not been stumbling over his words for the majority of the film or not had that look on his face that said "why me?" every time something went wrong.  The end of the dinner scene, where Stiller finds out that his girlfriend was previously engaged, then pops the cork on the champagne and destroys the urn containing Jack Byrnes' (De Niro) mother's ashes, then Minx the cat eats fallen ashes...scenes like this, the predictable run-on tragedy, occur all movie long and by the time the backyard of Byrnes' house is set on fire, I wasn't really laughing any more at Stiller's plight.

There are a multitude of other problems, though.  Stiller's name in the film is Greg Focker...f-oh-c-k-e-r.  The writers of the film clearly though it would be amusing to have other characters in the production say Greg's last name.  I, of course, did not.  Sonja and I both thought it would have been much better if they had just made Greg's name the other f-word, instead of messing around with a bunch of sound-alike words that have no meaning.  Also, there are a couple of strange holes that are never explained in the movie.  Kevin (Owen Wilson), Pam's ex-fiancé, seems like the coolest, nicest guy in the movie.  He also happens to be rich, caring, and thoughtful...not to mention, an incredibly skilled woodworker that lives in a huge house somewhere just outside of New York City.  Yet, Pam says that the reason their past relationship never worked was because it was just too "physical."  This didn't seem to make sense to me since PAM was the rabbit of the relationship!  She shows off these sexual tendencies a couple more times during the movie when she tries to get in the pants of her current boyfriend Greg...despite the fact that Pam's father has said no sex in his house while the couple is staying there!  Pam seems to be beyond obedient with every other rule her father has except the sex thing.  Strange.

All that being said, there are some really, really funny scenes in this movie and the last 20 minutes almost make up for a slow start.  A pretty good deal for a daytime showing.

Rating:  Matinee

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09