Meet The Parents
Everything that could possibly go wrong for groom-to-be Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) does. The problems begin with Greg’s dreadful first meeting with his girlfriend’s family – most notably her intimidating father, Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) – and it’s all downhill from there.
In 1967, New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther came under attack for his scathing review of Warren Beatty’s “Bonnie and Clyde.” He hated it for its glorification of the two demented desperados and for its excessive violence. He said, “This blending of farce with brutal killings is as pointless as it is lacking in taste, since it makes no valid commentary upon the already travestied truth.” But society was ready for this kind of bloodletting. And they couldn’t have cared less if the movies were depicting the truth. Movie-goers were looking for rebellion, and so “Bonnie and Clyde” became one of the pioneers to the movie excesses we now enjoy. Mr. Crowther no longer related to the present day film-goer. Soon new, and younger reviewers cropped up who freely accepted any crudity or any amount of profanity as mere artistic expression. Now, “Meet The Parents” is not a bloody actioneer, but I mention Mr. Crowther’s plight because there is a small fear inside me that “I” someday won’t relate to “Christian” movie-goers. As it stands, I can find merit in a movie that contains objectionable material, but I still believe we shouldn’t support a film that ridicules biblical standards. (“Almost Famous” recently received a favorable review due to its artistic qualities and positive final message, but was not approved due to the R-rated content.) How many Christian movie-goers attend movies that use God’s name followed by a curse, and pretend they don’t hear the profanity? For a fact, I know, it’s a lot. Many followers of Christ seem as eager as anyone else to see any new release, no matter the rating. As church folk become more accepting of crudity (“There’s Something About Mary”), worldly cynicism (“American Beauty”), and extreme violence (“The Patriot”), they are likely to find me as outdated as Bosley Crowther. So be it. I’ll go drive for Bekins. “Meet the Parents” has some extremely funny moments and two outstanding comic performances from Misters DeNiro and Stiller, and if one bumbling incident after another ala Jerry Lewis doesn’t get on your nerves, this disastrous tale of a first meeting of the soon-to-be in-laws is perfect, if not well-tried, movie fare. My problem with this light-hearted comedy, however, is that the light-heartedness is missing. Today many movie-makers blend edginess with downright harshness. For me, draconian material often destroys the thematic mood of romantic comedy. The inclusion of four GDs and four uses of Christ’s name as if it were a mere expletive, from screen family members who pray at mealtime no less, gives the film a hostile, negative quality. One character, an ex-suitor, received titters from the screening audience when we were told that he was a Christian and attempting to follow in Christ’s footsteps. But then this character is as hypocritical as the praying, yet profaning family. Although hypocrisy is a problem faced by most Christians at one time or another, painting all Believers as phonies seems as bigoted as the Stepin Fetchit portrayals of blacks during the ‘30s and ‘40s. Do you know why Hollywood is careful about how they portray blacks in the movies today? Because African Americans put up a fight. They said, “This isn’t the way we are and we won’t accept these caractitures.” Then the white community said, “You know, they’re right. This isn’t just. It’s prejudicial stereotyping.” You’d think the Christian community would learn from this example. But we don’t. We just accept. God says not to profane His name. How do you think He feels about supporting movies that blaspheme in the name of entertainment? Jerry Lewis seldom made great movies. His endearment lies in comic moments he captured on film. My video alternative, “Who’s Minding The Store,” could scarcely be called a great film, but there are a few extremely funny scenes. Our hapless hero wants nothing more than to impress the parents of his girlfriend. They own a department store and he tries his hand in each department. Seeing Jerry force-fed chocolate-covered ants at the delicacies counter brings laughs because we can all relate to that grimacing expression as one spoonful after another is shoveled in. Next, Jerry loses a battle in appliances as he fixes a vacuum cleaner so well that it sucks up everything, including a patron’s dog. In footwear, he wrestles with an obese woman while attempting to apply a size four to a size eight foot. If all this sounds nonsensical and less than fulfilling entertainment, you will no doubt be disappointed with the frantic antics in “Meet The Parents” as well.