Just finished watching Meet the Parents on Netflix. This is probably the millionth time I’ve watched this movie, but the first time that viewing has not been courtesy of the VHS copy I purchased in middle school, or whenever this came out. (2000).
I love this movie despite it being so stressful. I don’t like feeling stressed out when I watch movies, (HENCE why I don’t like horror movies) and good lord, everything in this movie just goes wrong right from the start.
The tale revolves around the gamely rivalry between Ben Stiller (Gaylord Focker) and Robert DiNero (Jack Byrnes). Gaylord aka Greg is dating Jack’s daughter Pam (known aliases: Pammycakes, Shortstack) and they go home for her sister Deb’s wedding to Dr. Bob. Greg is a nurse (which shouldn’t be a punchline but it totally was in 2000!!!!!) and Pam is a kindergarten teacher. Greg begins the movie by almost proposing to Pam (getting her kids to hold up hand painted letters spelling ‘Marry me Pam?’-somehow there were exactly the same number of kids in the class as letters needed-the magic of cinema!!!) but then Pam gets a phone call from her sister and she mentions aloud “I can’t believe he knew to ask Dad’s permission” so Greg tells the kids to fuck off, (essentially) and doesn’t propose.
They go to wherever Pam’s parents live, I forget. But it’s not Chicago and it’s not Detroit, so that narrows it down to just a few hundred thousand other American cities.
From the moment they arrive, things start to go wrong, and Pam gets more and more controlling of Greg’s behavior based on what her dad will and won’t like. She throws his cigarettes on the roof because her dad sees smoking as a sign of weakness, she also accidentally lets slip that Greg ‘hates cats’ upon meeting Mr. Jinx, the family cat. This stresses Greg out (clearly I’m a Greg apologist) and it sets everyone up for failure.
Jack has trained the cat to do a number of things, including using an indoor toilet. He did not however train him to amass a large sum of money from seedy real estate ventures in New York, then murder three people so whether or not he should be called ‘Mr. Jinx’ is up to all of you. (Bet you didn’t think you were gonna come across a Robert Durst joke in a Meet the Parents review didja?).
Basically just everything is horrible. Greg says a Simon & Garfunkel (I think? EDIT: Godspell) song as a prayer, he knocks over an urn with Jack’s mother’s ashes in it, which then Jinxy proceeds to shit on.
Also it must be mentioned: before dinner Jack goes to the Oyster Bay Drugstore (hey look! I figured out where they are!) because he says he’s out of Tom Collins mix. Greg goes with him and overhears/sees Jack meeting with a dude and getting passports and stuff, and just in general being covert. Greg later brings it up thinking it’s a CIA thing (oh right-plot twist! Jack was in the CIA for 34 years) but really it’s just a secret honeymoon as a wedding gift to Debbie and Bob. BUT HERE’S WHAT I WANTED TO SAY: the first time I saw this movie I was twelve years old and did not know what Tom Collins mix was. Then when I started to drink six years later (late bloomer!) it was exclusively Raspberry Smirnoff and cheap beer for me. I went through college, grad school, living at home for one year (lol) and three years in New Orleans before I ever ordered a Tom Collins. But order it I did, and it’s SO DELICIOUS. I love them so much, it’s my favorite drink, I get them with whiskey instead of gin and it’s like adult lemonade. And I owe that happiness to Meet the Parents, more specifically the writers of Meet the Parents- I wonder if in the DVD commentary (do they have that for this movie?) someone commented on why they chose that drink for that part. Was it product placement/sponsorship? A personal fave? The least offensive? Most popular? Why did they pick that?? I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Tom Collins being mentioned in a movie before, and it’s such a weird choice for a movie that’s trying to paint Jack as this tough CIA guy, who makes fun of male nurses, to exclusively drink Tom Collins with a lemon and a cherry. Maybe 2000 wasn’t as different as we think is all I’m sayin.
So, the shitshow continues (literally) as Greg manages to set fire to the house/hand carved wooden altar that Pam’s ex-fiance/Dr.Bob’s best man, Kevin (Owen Wilson) spent 70 hours making. He also loses Jinxy, but then gets a different cat and spray paints his tail black and that cat tears up the house and Debbie’s wedding dress. Oh, he also gave Deb a black eye when they were playing indoor pool volleyball and things got a little heated (did you know there’s no black people in this movie?) and yes, the shit reference earlier was to the septic tank overflow onto the lawn which INEVITABLY someone tries to back a truck up in and when they do, INEVITABLY spray everyone with liquid shit.
This seems to be the final straw for everyone and Jack kicks Greg to the proverbial curb. So he drives to the airport and pays A THOUSAND DOLLARS to change his flight (WHAT!!! If it cost 1,000 dollars to change a flight I would just live at the airport until when the original flight was, I don’t give a F) but then he gets kicked off the plane for calling the stewardess a bitch and saying the word bomb. But Pam’s mom, Dina, (played by sweet sweet Blythe Danner) has had a heart to heart with Jack and told him no one would ever be good enough for Pam in his eyes, so he rushes to the airport to get Greg to come back. Then the FBI/Air Marshall people allow Jack into the interrogation “room” (just a vacant basement hangar at the airport) cause he’s a ‘specialist.’ He asks Greg all these questions while monitoring his pulse (sexy!) and they realize it’s all good, and Jack asks Greg to be his son-in-law with the ring Greg bought for his proposal to Pam (which is kind of ugly and basic but who am I to judge their love).
So they go back to the house (making a stop to buy dyed flowers on the way) and Greg wakes Pam up by kissing her and asking her to be in HIS ‘circle of trust’ which is the wedding ring and a callback to Jack’s paranoid catchphrase he’s been repeating the whole movie. At one point he asks Greg, “I mean can you really ever trust another person Greg? No. No you cannot” and I was like, what is this freshmen year of college all over again??
Truth be told this movie was formative to me in a way I don’t quite think I want to acknowledge or even fully understand? Like when the luggage guy from the airport came and revealed his name was Gaylord Focker, I felt like that was this amazing and hilarious twist. Like, “his name was that the whole time!!!?? Brilliant!” Let’s not forget I was twelve, (please, let’s not forget) but still it’s so odd to watch something you remember connecting so strongly with and feeling nothing but entirely underwhelmed. Like, none of it was funny to me anymore! Which is so SAD. This was like a feel-good go to for me THROUGHOUT high school. Even college probably. And now? What have I become? Some shell of my former self who can’t even laugh at a vehicle comedy? I disgust me.
Liz Lemon was right. We can’t have it all. Because as soon as we start pursuing our dreams we learn things that ruin our comedic pasts! Ugh, I don’t know what I’m saying anymore but I expected to enjoy myself whole heartedly and get a good laugh out of a young Ben Stiller cuttin’ up, and instead I got a penetrating feeling of sadness. Thanks Obama. This movie is my David Bowie, if that makes sense. Too soon? But he’s not really dead he’s just in space? Oh well.
5/10 burnt altars. Will try to masturbate again to forever. FOREVER