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Some high points, but few and far between
on April 25, 2002
There are funny moments in Meet the Parents. Owen Wilson, who perhaps has the best performance of the lot, plays the perfect ex-fiance to Ben Stiller's love interest. The only thing he hasn't done is cure the world of all known diseases--but I'm sure he's working on it. There is one scene where he mentions, as an aside, that he carved this ornate altar out of a single block of wood. The delivery of that line is perfect.
The movie's flaws are several fold. First, it has trouble landing on being funny or just plain creepy. Part of the problem is Robert DeNiro. A terrific actor, he just doesn't pull off his role. His character just creepy, angry, and offensive, but only marginally humorous. For a movie that shoots for laughs, that's a big problem. In addition, it is almost impossible to like Ben Stiller's character. He is a nicotine addicted, shallow, and deceitful creep. You end up hoping that DeNiro finds some way to end his pitiful existence. Without a main character you can root for, this movie lacks a central core to pull of its "decent guy finds himself in a nuthouse" premise.
The ending where Stiller and his fiance get back together is, perhaps, is the worst part. It is cliche and not at all credible. I must, however, separate this from the last moments of the film where Stiller goes into a diatribe without knowing he is being filmed. That may be the best moment in the film.
I gave this movie three stars, rather than just two, because I didn't regret watching it--it had its moments--and I had to leave room for the dregs like Stargate and Independence day at the bottom pegs of the scale.
Rent if you want; but don't buy.