Parental guidance

Roach is smokin' with his budding brand of moronic hijinks in Meet the Parents

Life can be unbearably unmerciful. Some are stricken with malignant disease. Some suffer the ravages of typhoons or drought. And some succumb to man's inhumanity to man.But of all nature's cruelties, perhaps the most egregiously monstrous is having to endure Meet the Parents, the newest film by Jay Roach, director of the two Austin Powers flicks.
I confess I never saw Powers 2, having had my fill of lowbrow inanity about 10 minutes into the first one. But being a man of caution, and despite my initial negative reaction to Meet the Parents, I asked myself "Didn't they scoff at Stravinsky's Rite of Spring at its premiere?"
Too often the great ones are ignored in their own time only to be celebrated by subsequent generations. And too often the legacy of inflexible critics has been one of historical ignominy in the face of subsequently acknowledged genius.
Therefore I queried, "Who but a visionary would willingly venture into an area so obviously banal, so moronic in its plodding predictability? What does Roach see that I cannot?" After much soul searching I conclude the director deliberately intends to explore the delicate subtleties of that rarely acknowledged film genre, the "Whatever you do, don't touch that button!" school of movie making.
As is obvious from its title, poor Greg Focker (Ben Stiller), male nurse, (Hee, hee! There's a conceptual knee-slapper indicative of the humor to come) must spend an introductory weekend with his fiancé's parents, played by the warm and cuddly Robert De Niro and his screen wife, Blythe Danner.
This ever-so-cute movie never misses an opportunity to make cute jokes about the name Focker and repeatedly bludgeons this poor, excessively dead horse. So heinous is the premeditated relentlessness of this crime that someone needs to inform PETA.
Yeah, this one's real cute. If dad says don't let the cat out, wouldn't it be cute to let the cat out? If dad says, "Whatever you do, don't flush that toilet!" wouldn't it be cute ... ? If dad says, "That urn contains the ashes of my beloved mother," wouldn't it be cute ... ? Oh, the pain!
To his credit, Stiller creates a character of character. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are life's caprice rather than a result of inherent fecklessness. And his comedic skill allows the film what little genuine mirth it is capable of generating. In one scene, as he and De Niro talk at cross-purposes regarding reefer, Stiller's incredulity temporarily frees the balloon of its lead.
Poor De Niro (as whimsical a comedian as Arnold Schwarzenegger), after the riotous hijinks of Meet the Parents it may be time in his career to stretch a little. Perhaps he ought to go against type and attempt an Italian gangster role.
The rest of the cast is relegated to the "hell of the excessively beige," a bottomless pit of faceless WASP anonymity. In part, this is due to another of the film's cute juxtapositions: Focker is Jewish and his intended, a shiksa. To the director's credit, at least pork roast wasn't on the menu at the family's first meal with Focker.
Sadly, another talented actor demonstrating a gift for comedy, Owen Wilson, is barely allowed to display his chops. (Attend to his performance in the recent and delightful but overlooked Shanghai Noon.)
As must be evident from the nature of this review, I have no appetite for films such as Austin Powers or Meet the Parents. Yet I am fully aware the two Powers flicks made buckets o' money. Therefore there must be a huge audience for this type of film and sure enough, there were people at the screening laughing uproariously.
So keep in mind a review is subjective. Despite my negativity, if you liked Powers you'll probably like this one.