From January 2001
Film Review

Also reviewed: Family Man
• other December releases

Film Review Hotline
4 Stars; Recommended

Bob wasn't sure if this was a Taxi Driver day or an
Analyze This day...

STARS: Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller,
Teri Polo, Blythe Danner,
James Rebhorn, Owen Wilson

Jim Herzfeld & John Hamburg
DISTRIBUTOR and Image copyright: UIP
RUNNING TIME: 1hr 48mins
OPENING DATE (UK): December 15

The Parent Trap

After so many witless comedies have gained undeserved blockbuster status at this year's US box-office (Big Momma's House, Scary Movie and Nutty Professor II anyone?), here's one they finally got right. Spending four weeks at the US top spot - a once-in-a-blue-moon accolade - and breezing past the $100m mark, Meet the Parents is a laugh-out-loud delight from start to finish, with tailor-made roles for the sublime De Niro and Stiller pairing.

Greg (Stiller) is a nice guy, constantly dogged by bad luck. He's organized a sweet, original way to propose to girlfriend Pam (Polo), interrupted by the news that her sister is getting hitched. The moment is ruined, but the intimate wedding weekend provides an opportunity to, you've guessed it, meet the parents.

Pam warns him that her retired horticulturist father Jack (De Niro, on the comic form of his life) is set in his ways about certain things, so Greg sets about moulding himself into the ideal potential son-in-law: a non-smoker with a keen interest in felines. But Greg's not a natural liar and his tall tales of milking cats, coupled with his unerring ability to accidentally cause Jack emotional distress, are doing him few favours.

It's a universal tale of trying to impress the potential in-laws, given huge voltage by Stiller at his most warmly appealing and the hysterically stern De Niro as a man with a built in 'bullshit detector' and a secret past that makes him even more difficult to contend with.

The script cleverly combines broad slapstick and wincingly funny dialogue (including a sly Deer Hunter in-joke), while integrating genuine warmth and pathos into Stiller's nightmare predicament. It also cleverly plays with our expectations, carrying a 'sinister' sub-plot that seems ripe for some final reel table-turning by Stiller on De Niro, but which doesn't quite go according to plan. Indeed, the resolution is all the more satisfying, because it stays true to all that has occurred earlier.

Director Roach, whose other recent successes includes the two Austin Powers films, gives every Stiller disaster maximum comic impact (the water volleyball mishap had me crying) and even the most telegraphed gags are belters. And never has a film produced so many laughs from a rude-sounding surname. You'll see.

Jason Caro

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Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction.

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Also reviewed online this month:
4 Stars; Recommended
FAMILY MAN • released December 22


5 Stars; Excellent
The Apartment • Dec 15

4 Stars; Recommended
Cecil B Demented • Dec 8

4 Stars; Recommended
Dec 1 • La Fidelité
Dec 1 • Small Time Crooks
Dec 8 • The Man Who Cried Dec 8 • The Escort