"First comes love. Then comes the interrogation"

In modern American culture, ‘cringe-worthy’ has replaced comedy. The formula dictates that if we keep heaping upon one (or more) poor, pathetic fellow(s) as many humiliating and mortifying calamities as possible; then the audience will surely delight in the guilty pleasure of watching the beat down. Of course, there is nothing more fun to watch than embarrassment that emanates from either sexual innuendo, ruining something beautiful and expensive, or anything that involves relieving oneself. Well, if this is comedy, and I am not here to say it shouldn’t be, then Meet the Parents is one quintessential comedy of our time and Ben Stiller is the funniest man alive. Stiller portrays a human accident better than anyone and he definitely knows how to extort laughs and sympathy from his audience.

When Stiller’s character, Gaylord (Greg) Focker (what….what?), has to meet his girlfriend’s retired father, played by Robert DeNiro, we already know Greg’s going to be a buffoon and DeNiro’s gonna lean on him. We only are left to imagine how far the buffoonery and leaning will go. The movie draws our laughs, or rather gasps, by setting up Focker’s humiliation so that we can be in a state of giddy anticipation as the bedlam unfolds. Once Focker makes his mess, we relish in the horrified reaction of those witnessing it. The content of the movie works in this circular pattern. One example: Focker, wearing tiny tropical Speedos gets frustrated after being mocked for his poor volleyball playing skills spikes the ball into his girlfriend’s sister’s face (accidentally) causing her nose to bleed vigorously and her eye to swell; all this just days before her wedding. Undoubtedly amusing business especially with Stiller as ringleader. John Cusack used to be the master of this stuff back in his Better off Dead days, Stiller is his well matched contemporary.

DeNiro, because of his talent, can really do no substantial wrong on screen; so there is no surprise that he has an adept comic touch. Should he be using his time making more zany comedies instead of Godfather Part II’s and Raging Bull’s? Argue either way, but know that a lesser actor could not have made the domineering, ex-CIA agent Dad as believable in his eccentricity.

In these days of teen "comedies" and Adam Sandler (OK, Happy Gilmore was great, but that’s it!!) you could do much worse than Meet the Parents if you are looking for a good laugh. Just don’t be surprised if you end up excitedly yelling "NO WAY!!!" a lot more often than you find yourself cracking up. Nowadays, we would call that comedy.

Writer's Note:

If you laughed every time you read the word "Focker" on this page, then you are going to have a ball with this one.