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By Susannah Breslin | May 5, 2001

Whoever convinced the talents of Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller to appear in a movie as relentlessly unfunny and astonishingly dull as Meet the Parents should be hunted down and savagely defiled. Never before have two such skilled actors been so monstrously squandered in a movie so replete with failed gags and pathetic gaffs. The grindingly sluggish pace of Meet the Parents ultimately makes watching all this waste one of the most torturous cinematic experiences so far this year. After all, it’s one thing to make a bad movie, but throwing away talent of this kind while doing it is almost criminal.
Meet the Parents meets Murphy’s Law with Ben Stiller as Greg Focker (they beat the comedy out of that name like a dead horse), a guy who just wants to propose to his girl–except everything starts going wrong. The remarkably stiff and uninteresting Teri Polo of Felicity fame plays opposite poor Stiller as his girlfriend Pam Byrnes, a chick whose marriage-proposal from Mr. Focker gets derailed when her silly sister calls to declare she’s getting married. As it turns out, Focker gathers, he should ask Pam’s dad for permission first before asking for his first-born daughter’s hand. Sound easy? WELL, GUEss AGAIN, because the kooky-krazy stuff starts as Focker goes to Meet the Parents to get the go ahead, and everything gets really Focked up.
Whatever slight breeze of momentum “Meet the Parents” may have had grinds to a fantastically slow crawl the second Focker and girl arrive at the parents. Big Bad Daddy, aka Jack Byrnes, is played by poor De Niro and Really Nice Mom, aka Dina Byrnes, is played by Blythe Danner, aka Gwenyth Paltrow’s Mom. From the couple’s arrival on, as everyone prepares for the wedding and Focker tries to propose his own, it’s all down a slow but steep hill. For a good fifteen minutes, everyone sits around for one of the most endless dinner scenes every filmed, wherein all recite the jokes that got thrown out of There’s Something About Mary and rewritten to be unfunnier for Meet the Parents. When, when will the agony end?
Unluckily, no time soon. Focker’s only adeptness is in accidentally desecrating just about everything within reach, from fighting with The Parents’ cat to burning down the house. It suffices to say the only humorous part involves a cat defecating. Things just get worse as Focker meets Pam’s uber-successful ex-fiancee, Kevin Rawley, played by Owen Wilson from Shanghai Noon, another fine actor here lost in a bad film, but seemingly the only one capable of being hilarious regardless. He’s rich and he’s self-deprecating and he’s funny. De Niro and Stiller stand around and watch. Meanwhile, everyone gets ready for the sister’s wedding, someone’s nose gets broken, and Focker gets caught trying to sleep with his girl in Daddy’s house. Life has never been unfunnier.
Part way through, a sub-plot gets thrown in involving Daddy-o and his old job working for The Man, and Stiller gets involved in unraveling this series of stupid and utterly unbelievable plot twists. No bad script–penned by Jimi Herzfeld (Meet the Deedles) and John Hamburg (Safe Men)–or completely uninspired directing–Jay Roach of Austin Powers fame–can help this cast as they slog bitterly through to the last end. Better, in the end, if none of those involved ever thought it would be a good idea to ever go and Meet the Parents at all.

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