Meet the Parents On DVD

Robert DeNiro, Ben Stiller, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, Owen Wilson, John Abrahams, James Rebhorn. Directed by Jay Roach. Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 (anamorphic). Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS. 108 minutes. 2000. Universal Home Video 21133. PG-13. $26.98.

Robert DeNiro reinforces his emerging reputation as a terrific comic actor with this turn as an ex-CIA operative who turns his scrutiny on the male nurse courting his daughter. The legendary actor, best known for playing dangerous men in films like Goodfellas and Taxi Driver, is perfectly cast as Jack Byrnes, who combines the traits of a doting father and cat lover with the specter of someone who might just snap your neck if you piss him off.

The premise of the movie—a remake of a low-budget 1992 film—is simple: A bumbling but well-intentioned guy meets his girlfriend's parents for the first time, hoping to get her dad's permission to ask for her hand in marriage. But, as the unfortunately named Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) quickly learns, behind the exterior of an all-American household in a sleepy Long Island town glowers the Father From Hell. Poor Greg can't seem to say or do anything without getting under the skin of control freak Jack.

It's the interplay between two terrific actors that helps this film survive its one-joke concept. Stiller's a brilliantly expressive comic actor, and DeNiro is simply a great actor, no matter the genre he happens to be working in. If these two took turns reciting dictionary entries, it would be fun to watch.

Fortunately, the script is more interesting than the dictionary, usually managing to live up to the pair's talents. Some moments, many involving Jack's Persian cat, Mr. Jinx, are inspired, rivaling scenes we've grown to love from films like those produced by the Farrelly Brothers. Others fall a bit flat, as if the writer was tiring of the effort involved in stretching the joke. On the whole, though, this is entertaining fodder for a wide range of audiences, highlighted by a topnotch cast and a well-trained cat.

Universal has mastered the art of properly presenting their A-list titles. When I stuck Meet the Parents into my DVD player, I was struck by the fun, full-motion menus, and again by the exceptionally clean and bright picture quality. The DVD includes Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks, and you won't go wrong with either. Except for a few scenes involving fire, there's not much to test a surround-sound system here; Meet the Parents is driven by its dialogue, and both tracks deliver that well.

This collector's edition is loaded with extras that run the gamut from commentaries to games to DVD-ROM features. About the only standard fare is an HBO First Look special, which contains the usual loving comments from the cast about the director. More interesting is a game that shares its theme with the film—it's basically a lie-detector test. Unfortunately, it asks the same questions every time you play. Also included is a "Forecaster" quiz that tries to determine your prospects should you find yourself in the awkward position of "meeting the parents." Other extras include a very funny out-takes reel and a pair of deleted scenes, available with or without commentary from director Jay Roach and editor Jon Poll, who admits he would just as soon keep these scenes buried.

The first of two commentary tracks gives us more of Roach and Poll, who are very entertaining as they comment on everything from the cats that played Mr. Jinx to their theories about the film's success. The second track stars Roach, producer Jane Rosenthal, DeNiro, and Stiller, and, given the talent involved, is surprisingly low-key. In fact, DeNiro seems missing in action much of the time, speaking when spoken to but volunteering nothing. Also included are cast and crew information, screen-savers and computer wallpaper (on the DVD-ROM side), and the movie's trailer.

Meet the Parents takes a simple situation—one many of us have been in at one time or another—and milks it for all it's worth. Watching this movie is an entertaining alternative to actually meeting the parents.