Lisa G, Joe G, Candice K

Movie Analysis

Dec. 12, 2001


Meet the Parents


We chose to analyze “Meet the Parents” for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that many of us are able to relate to some of the exaggerated situations the movie presents. In the movie, Greg (Ben Stiller) spends an eventful weekend at the home of his longtime girlfriend Pam’s parents’ house. The movie exaggerates the uncomfortable situations college-aged people run into when they first meet the parents of a girlfriend or boyfriend. The events in the movie show that it was targeted to people our age and older, and it was extremely successful. When “Meet the Parents” was released in October 2000 it was an instant success, smashing previous October box office records and bringing in $28.2 million – nearly double that of the previous year’s record of $13.5 million from “Double Jeopardy.” After one week in theaters, the sequel was being planned.

“Meet the Parents” follows a theme in comedy in today’s American popular culture: The film exaggerates real situations to create a comedic effect, which is ubiquitous in American comedy today (DELETE). It takes an ordinary guy and puts him in what is usually a common situation, and blows every event of the situation (DELETE) out of proportion. For example, when Greg innocently goes out on the roof to smoke a cigarette so Pam’s parents don’t see him smoking, he ends up setting part of the house on fire. This type of comedy dominates today’s popular culture and is demonstrated in similar films such as “American Pie,”  “Road Trip,” and “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

“Meet the Parents” addresses several cultural issues, mainly the preconceived ideas people have about Ben Stiller’s character’s identity as a male nurse and a Jew. Stiller endures many awkward moments because of these traits. For example, when he first meets Pam’s sister and her fiancé and the fiance’s parents, he finds out the fiancé and his dad are both medical doctors/surgeons. They think he’s kidding when he tells them he’s a nurse, and they are in complete disbelief and puzzlement as to why he didn’t go on to become a physician, even though he did well on his MCATS. In the clip we’ll be showing today, Stiller meets Pam’s ex-fiance, Kevin, who is an investor. When Pam’s Dad tells Kevin that Greg is in healthcare, Kevin takes it to mean that Greg invests in that arena, and when he finds out Greg is really a nurse, Kevin thinks Greg does it as charitable volunteer work. 

The other cultural issue the movie addresses is the perception non-Jews have of Jewish people. In the clip, Kevin explains his love of carpentry, saying that he is motivated to do it because Jesus was also a carpenter. Greg is left hanging because he doesn’t want to offend Kevin, but he personally doesn’t follow Jesus as a role model because he is Jewish. Thus, the movie shows us the unintended awkward moments that arise due to cultural differences and the perceptions of certain characteristics, like a man in the nursing field, or a Jew’s struggle living in a predominantly Christian society.

As Greg spends the weekend with Pam’s family, he struggles to impress them and win them over, despite his failings. This is made more difficult because of the cultural differences he has with them, and also the fact that Pam’s father doesn’t miss an opportunity to interrogate him or to point out the inconsistencies in the information Greg provides about himself. Greg’s situation is also worsened by his use of deception to avoid upsetting anyone or hurting their feelings. For example, he doesn’t want to tell Pam’s parents that he dislikes cats because they obviously adore their pet cat Jinx. Greg’s lying becomes habitual, unfortunately, and he ends up entangled in a web of deception that leads him into one calamity after another, as he loses Jinx, sets the yard on fire, and causes a septic tank leak that floods the backyard with raw sewage. The message of the movie is that lying to impress people never works in the end, and you should let them learn to love you for who you are, the way Pam still loves Greg despite all the disasters he causes.