Imagine a marriage of Nora Ephron romanticism and the insane physical humor of the Farrelly brothers operating in a kinder, gentler mode. That may be the best way to describe Meet the Parents, a heartfelt, yet manic comedy constructed from a series of awkward moments and disastrous mishaps as a love-struck suitor struggles to gain the approval of his prospective in-laws.
Greg Focker (whose near-miss last name gets a workout within the confines of a PG-13 rating) wants to propose to Pam. But first he must fly to Long Island for her sister’s wedding, meet Dad (De Niro) and secure his blessing. Easier said than done. Before he ever gets into the house, Greg (played by congenial everyman Ben Stiller) finds his foot in his mouth. The visit gets rockier. And when Greg learns that Pam’s father is a retired CIA psychological profiler, the intimidation factor could make a simple "pass the gravy" result in flop sweat.
Meet the Parents is a cleverly scripted, often hilarious film. If only it had felt confident enough in its clean humor to avoid unnecessary sexual dialogue and profanity, including nearly a dozen misuses of God’s name.
On the positive side, it champions the permanence of marriage and the need for trust within families. It even introduces viewers to a "model" ex-boyfriend of Pam’s who is a smart, hip, gracious, fun, likeable born-again Christian.
The last PG-13 comedy from director Jay Roach was the raunchy Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. This is a sweet-spirited improvement. Still, some sorry content will keep families from embracing Parents.