Meet the Parents

In Meet the Parents, Jack Byrnes (played by Robert De Niro) is a retired Central Intelligence Agency interrogator, though he tells his family that he is a rare flower dealer. His requirement that everyone in his family must be a part of a “circle of trust” and tell no lies drives his children nuts. His son Denny (played by Jon Abrahams) secretly smokes pot and decorates his room in a counterculture mode. His daughter Pam (played by Teri Polo) has had many boyfriends over the years, but none has been good enough for Jack, so she moves to Chicago to find a life of her own as a preschool teacher at Harmony School. In due course Pam meets emergency room nurse Gaylord Focker (played by Ben Stiller), whose nickname is “Greg” (not “Gay”). They fall in love, and Greg is about to propose when she indicates that her father’s approval, though not required, is a plus in the impending marriage of her sister Debbie (played by Nicole DeHuff). Accordingly, Greg and Pam fly to La Guardia Airport for a weekend with her parents in their house at Oyster Bay, Long Island. As filmviewers who have seen the trailer for the film already know, the weekend is a comedy of errors, starting when Jack asks Greg how to pronounce his name “Focker.” Greg’s missteps produce hilarious disasters, ultimately resulting in Jack’s order to Greg to leave the house, and he returns to LaGuardia. At this point there is a coup in the power structure of the family. Pam and her mother Dina (played by Blythe Danner) insist that Jack has been a cad and must retrieve Greg lest Pam become a spinster. The intention of Meet the Parents, directed by Jay Roach, is thus to satirize the custom of having parents screen a prospective son-in-law before financing the wedding and giving away their daughter. Conventional heterosexual customs have never looked sillier, but of course the aim of the film is to be silly, albeit while reminding wives that they can really be more civilized than their eccentric husbands. MH

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