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|January 13, 2001||
Leave your brains at home!
Remakes are common enough.
But a remake of a successful film made just seven years earlier? Never heard of such a thing before, have you?
Yet that's the case here. Meet The Parents is virtually a scene-by-scene remake of the 1992 film of the same name.
It's even acknowledged in the credits of this film when the script is credited to Greg Glienna and Mary Ruth Clarke, the cowriters as well as the coactors of that 1992 film.
In fact, it has autobiographical elements, hence the main character's name Greg after Greg Glienna, who wrote, directed and acted in the original.
So why remake such a recent film? Well, because audiences have changed. Believe it or not, within the space of those seven years, a whole new generation of young kids have come of moviegoing age and virtually none of them have even heard of the first film!
This is a statement on the state of movie audiences today, but that's a subject for a thesis, not a film review.
Coming back to the current film, Meet The Parents (2000), the big question is: Was it worth remaking?
The answer is a big, brash YES!
This is a film that's going to have you laughing long and hard for its entire duration. If you've had your appendix removed, don't see it, or at least have a doctor ready to redo your stitches. But definitely don't hire a male nurse named Greg!
Because that's the name of the protagonist of this film played by Ben Stiller. The same nerdy dude who got his watchamacallit in a flap in There's Something About Mary.
Greg plays the kind of dumb hero who has been a staple of Hollywood comedies since the days of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, and from Jerry Lewis to Jim Carrey. The kind that gets up to dangerously idiotic stunts in films like Dumb And Dumber, A Night At The Roxbury, and any of Adam Sandler's laugh-riots.
Except that Stiller plays his characters with amazing restraint and credibility. Unlike Carrey or Sandler, this unassuming actor doesn't jump around, contort his face or bend over and make his butt talk.
He comes across as an ordinary simple-minded Joe trying hard to make the best of a difficult situation.
The situation in this case is more than difficult: It's Robert De Niro. The master of screen naturalism, menacing gangster and villainish hoodlum of so many great films from Raging Bull to Cape Fear. De Niro has always done the occasional comedy as a change of pace, including the recent Analyze This.
But in Meet The Parents, he finds a role that allows him to use his 'mean streets' looks and attitude with hilarious effect.
Do I have to tell you the storyline? It's all there in the promos. A simple guy is taken home by his fiancee to meet her parents and attend her sister's wedding over one weekend. Her father turns out to be an ex-CIA control freak who makes the weekend a nightmare for the poor wannabe. Or perhaps it's the young wannabe who makes the weekend a nightmare for the rest of the family? After a while, it's hard to tell who does more damage to the other!
The humour comes from the clash between De Niro's hard-as-nails mean and mencing personality and Stiller's nice-guy wimpiness. A series of pratfalls follows that takes the poor fiancee deeper and deeper into trouble.
What makes the film work so well is the familiar realism of the basic situation. Every young man has to meet his prospective in-laws for the first time at least once in his life (if he gets divorced and remarries, then of course he gets to do this not-fun thing any number of times, which is a very good reason not to get remarried by the way!).
And there's always a certain tension and anxiety about that first meeting.
Taking this basic social anxiety and milking it every conceivable resulting mix-up imaginable, the script keeps us laughing while staying within the realm of possibility. Unlike Adam Sandler's movies which often take off on impossibly weird tangents (Little Nicky being a good example), Meet The Parents actually keeps its feet firmly planted on solid ground.
This enables De Niro to put his formidable Oscar-winning talent to full effect, all but stealing the film. His chemistry with Stiller is amazing.
The only other time when he's been so well matched in a comedy that I can remember is an earlier film named Midnight Run, where he and Charles Grodin played off each other so marvellously.
In a way, Stiller actually undercuts De Niro, his lowkey dumb persona bringing in many more laughs than the overbearing, aggro pa-in-law.
This is a fun comedy that's going to keep you spilling popcorn and cola on yourself all through. Leave your brains at home, carry a bib, and slobber all the way!
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