Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Circle of Trust

Meet the Parents
Director: Jay Roach
Cast: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, Owen Wilson
Released: October 6, 2000
Viewed in theaters: October 7, 2000

Oscar nominations:

Best Song - "A Fool in Love" by Randy Newman (lost to "Things Have Changed" by Bob Dylan from Wonder Boys)

Meet the Fockers
Director: Jay Roach
Cast: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand 
Released: December 22, 2004

Picture it: Kansas City, Missouri, 2000. My mom and I are in KC for a weekend, just for funsies. We shop, we eat, we go to movies both nights we're there. On Friday night we see Remember the Titans and on Saturday night we see Meet the Parents. Okay, that's the extent of my story! 

Yes, I'm missing the third movie in this trilogy, Little Fockers, but it wasn't available on Netflix like the other two are and I heard it's pretty terrible, so I don't feel like I'm missing anything! 

The first movie begins in Chicago where Greg Focker (Ben Stiller (oh, and we will get to how horrendous that name is later on!)) is getting ready to propose to his girlfriend, Pam (Teri Polo). She's a kindergarten teacher and he has this whole thing planned out where he has her students arranged by the window holding up letters that read, "Will You Marry Me?" and he will surprise her by turning her around so she'll see the message. It's all very cute. Just as he's getting ready to pop the question, her phone rings and it's her younger sister, Debbie, telling her SHE'S gotten engaged. What are the odds of that? When Greg hears that her sister's fiance, Bob, asked permission from her father because he appreciates things like that, he decides to nix the proposal.  Although, does it seem a little weird that he was planning to propose to his girlfriend without ever meeting her parents? I know her parents live in New York, but you would think they've been dating long enough that their paths would have crossed at least once. Lucky for him, Debbie and Bob are getting married in two weeks (seriously, WTF? They JUST got engaged and they're getting married in TWO WEEKS?) so he will be able to meet Pam's parents and ask her father for permission to marry her

Greg's trip to Oyster Bay (yes, I checked, and yes, it is a real place. It's on Long Island) doesn't start out so well when the airline loses his luggage which had a two-carat diamond engagement ring inside of it. Was he seriously planning on asking Pam to marry him the same weekend as her sister's wedding? Ehhh....not a good idea. Why is he trying to take away attention from the sister who's getting married? But man, I would be so pissed if they lost my luggage with a diamond ring in it! And the next three days for him are only going to get worse.

Greg meets Pam's parents, Jack and Dina Byrnes (Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner) and right away Jack gets in two jabs at Greg. This will be a running theme throughout the movie (and the next one!) He comments about their rental car and tells him, "Interesting color, you pick it?" (It's green). Greg tells him the guy at the counter was the one who picked it out and Jack tells him, "They say geniuses pick green...but you didn't pick it!" Ouch. Also, I call BS on that. When Pam tells her parents that Greg lost his luggage, Jack asks if she got her luggage and she tells him she took a carry-on to which he replies, "That's my girl!"

This is the point of the movie where the viewing audience learns what Greg's last name is. Dina asks him how it's pronounced and he tells her just how it's spelled, F-O-C-K-E-R. You know they were hoping that wasn't the case! I have to admit, I laughed at all the Focker jokes. Because I'm 12. There's a few in this movie, but they're more prevalent in the second movie when we meet Father Focker and Mother Focker (hehehe). Speaking of Meet the Fockers, I was surprised they got away with  calling it that! Little Fockers sounds even worse...try saying that three times fast and you're saying something completely different! While doing research for this movie (which is reading the trivia page on IMDb), I read that the MPAA would not allow them to use that name (it is PG-13 rated movie, after all) unless they found someone who had that last name. Evidently they did. Just imagine, there are some poor schmucks out there with this horrible last name. And these movies probably didn't help them! By the way, if I were Pam, I would NOT change my name! (Spoiler alert: they get married!)

We're introduced to the Byrnes' cat, Mr. Jinx (who usually goes by Jinx or Jinxy). Now, I don't remember my reaction to first seeing Jinx, but I'm sure it was one of the following:
-I probably clapped.
-I probably "ahhhhh"-ed.
-I probably squealed in delight.
-I probably did all the above.
Why? Well, because Mr. Jinx was played by a Himalayan and I don't know if you remember (and you probably don't), but when I reviewed Homeward Bound, which also features a Himalayan cat, I mentioned I had a Himalayan cat. His name was Mac and he has since passed on, but he was alive when I saw Meet the Parents, so of course I was more then delighted to see a Himalayan cat being represented in the film industry, haha. Jinx belongs to Pam and she left him with her parents when she moved to Chicago, but they should have just made him her parents' pet. It didn't make any sense why she never told her boyfriend about her cat...you think that would come up on one of their first couple of dates; everyone loves talking about their pets! Also, Jack is ENAMORED with this cat, another reason they should have just made it his own cat. While I remembered the whole teaching Jinx to use the toilet trick, I had totally forgotten about his smaller, but still equally impressive tricks. When Jack calls Jinx ("Come here, baby! Come to Daddy!"), the cat jumps onto a chair, then into his arms. Super impressive. Also, when Jack tells him to say "hi" to Greg, the cat waves his paw. It's so cute! In another scene, Jack will feed him bacon from his mouth (that's not really a trick though, anyone can do that!) Jack tells Greg that he taught Jinx to use the toilet and when Greg makes a joke about having another guy around to leave the toilet seat up, the three human Byrnes just stare at him and Jack tells him "He can't lift the seat, Greg. He lacks the strength and opposable thumbs." Pam drops the bomb that Greg hates cat and Jack just gives him this look which quickly tells Greg that if he wasn't already on Jack's bad side before, he certainly is now! And maybe that's the reason Pam never told Greg about her cat. I still think they should have just made Jinx her parents' cat. I did laugh when Greg tells the Byrnes he's more of a dog person and Dina, who is standing behind Jack, mouths, "So am I." How much do you want to bet he would divorce her in a second he had seen her?

Later, Greg will accompany Jack to the store when Pam suggests they go together so he can pick up some toiletries in case his suitcase doesn't arrive. It's the first time they're alone together and it's super awkward with small talk and just when Greg is about to have a serious conversation about his feeling for Pam, Jack asks him, "Greg, home come you don't like cats?" Greg tries to do damage control and tells him that he does like cats, but just prefers dogs over them. Jack calls them "an emotionally shallow animal" and that "cats make you work for your affection; they don't sell out like dogs do." Trust me, that logic doesn't work for my cat. If you give him food and pats and belly rubs, he is all purrs and cuddles.

Greg gets caught in a little white lie where he tells Jack that he grew up on a farm and pumped milk. At dinner that night, Jack asks him about it and Pam tells him that Greg is from Detroit. It cracked me up when Dina asks him, "Do they have many farms in Detroit?" I have never been to Detroit, but I imagine the answer is no! Greg has to clarify that he grew up in a farm-style house with lots of pets and he tells this crazy story about how he milked a mother cat (who apparently had a litter of 30 cats!) so he could feed a little runt that wasn't able to get any milk. He tells them that you can milk anything with nipples and this is when we get the most quoted De Niro line since he uttered "You talkin' to me?" in Taxi Driver (I'm joking, but I'm not), which, of course, is, "I have nipples, Greg. Could you milk me?"

This is also the scene where Greg accidentally knocks over the urn with Jack's mother's ashes and Jinx uses it as a litter box. Greg will do a lot of dumb things over the next two days, but this one is probably the worst. Jack surprisingly forgives him (well, sort of!) pretty fast. Greg tells him that he feels horrible about what happened and Jack replies, "Well, it was a horrible thing, but let's just put it behind us and enjoy the weekend."

Jack has a little chat with Greg right before they're all getting ready to go to bed and I'm sure if Pam knew about this, she would be mortified. He tells him, "I'm a realist, I understand it's the 21st century and you've probably had premarital relationships with my daughter." I love that Greg just stares at him, not giving any indication that he has or hasn't. You know if he says yes, then Jack will get mad. And if he says no, Jack will call him a liar and get mad. So it's a lose-lose situation for him. Jack tells him he will be sleeping in the den and he doesn't want any funny business because "under my roof it's my way or the Long Island Express Way." Now, even though he says it's the 21st century, it was actually still the 20th century as the 21st century didn't start until 2001.

There are a lot of jokes about Greg being a nurse and his legal name (Gaylord) and I feel like they wouldn't fly today, because, really, is it that big of a deal for a guy to be a nurse? I don't think it is. But I guess since it was still the 20th century, those jokes were still okay to make.

Greg was under the impression that Jack was a horticulturist, but finds out he was actually in the CIA for 34 years and Pam never told him because it was "strictly on a need-to-know basis." He was a psychological profiler and was used to interrogate suspected double agents. This is the scene where he sets up a lie detector test for poor Greg. He tells Pam that he asked him if they were living together, something Pam made clear that she did not want Greg to tell her father, but he was saved when Dina interrupted them and was able to get out of the room. Pam tells Greg that her father is a human lie detector. Now, if she knew this about her own father, why is she making Greg lie about this if she knows her dad will probably be able to suss it out anyway? Jack tells Greg that he is now in the "Byrne family Circle of Trust" which is a running gag that goes into the next movie.

We find out Pam has a younger brother, Denny, the next morning when she's about to get Greg more clothes to borrow from her dad and he tells her he feels weird wearing her dad's clothes and underwear. Pam tells him to borrow some from her brother, who's still sleeping. It appears that Denny still lives at home and he's either in high school or college, but it's just so weird that we've already spent an entire day with the Byrnes and weren't introduced to him or Pam didn't say something about him. I think this might be some kind of joke that he's invisible because there will be a scene later on when Jack is looking for him and he yells his name a couple of times and his son is literally in the same room, sitting on the couch. ("I'm right here, Dad!") Anyway, Pam really annoyed me in this scene because she tells Greg to go wake up her brother, who he has never met, mind you, and ask to borrow his clothes, which includes underwear. That's a bit of a forward thing, don't you think, PAM? Why don't you ask your brother if he can lend clothes to your boyfriend, PAM?

Besides meeting Denny, Greg also meet's Pam's sister, Debbie and her fiance, Bob and his parents. (His dad is played by the late character actor James Rebhorn. Even if you don't recognize the name, you would definitely recognize him as he's been in a ton of things). They are all going to have a pre-wedding lunch at the Best Man's house. Okay, let's see if I can get this straight: the Best Man, Kevin (Owen Wilson) is also Pam's ex-fiance and he and Bob went to lacrosse camp together. Greg is very intimidated by Kevin because not only does he get along great with Jack, but he lives in this massive house with an indoor pool where they play volleyball. Greg, Jack, Denny, and Bob's dad are on one team and Pam, Debbie, Kevin, and Bob are on the other team with the two moms watching. Poor Greg isn't doing too well so when his team has a huddle, Jack gets another jab into him and tells him, "Greg, nobody's expecting much out of you, so if I set you up with the ball, do you think you could spike it." So mean, but so funny. Greg gets a little too aggressive and he ends up smashing the ball into Debbie's face. It looked like she broke her nose because a lot of blood comes gushing out, but she's screaming, "My eye! My eye!" and in the next scene her eye is swollen shut. I love that Dina starts freaking out and jumps into the pool with all her clothes on. Let's review here: Debbie's fiance is in the pool. Her father is in the pool. Her sister is in the pool. Her brother is in the pool. There are plenty of people to come to her aid, and of course they all do.

Greg's day will only get worse when he accidentally sets the ornate altar that Kevin carved for Debbie and Bob's wedding on fire and when he loses Jinx by letting him outside when he's not supposed to. Naturally, this upsets Jack greatly, especially since they can't do the dress rehearsal without Jinx because he's the ring bearer! Debbie say, "We can't cancel the rehearsal because of some stupid cat." Outraged, Jack replies, "Stupid cat? How can you say that? That cat's been like a brother to you." I love he says that with Debbie's actual brother right there in the same room. Jack voices his concern for Jinx: "We're supposed to let him wander the streets without food, water, or toilet?" Pam volunteers Greg to look for Jinx. He goes to an animal shelter and sees a Himalayan that he's sure is Jinx but the guy points out in the photo that Greg brought with him that Jinx has an all black tail and this cat has a white tip on the tail. Greg spray paints the cat's tail and passes him off as Jinx. Surprisingly, it works and he's hailed as a hero. I really thought Jack was going to see right through him and know that cat wasn't his, but he gets a message from his neighbor that night telling him that they have Jinx at their house.

They all come home from a rehearsal dinner that night to find that the impostor cat has gotten into all the wedding things, including the wedding dress. Jack accuses Greg of getting a Himalayan and passing it off as Jinx. In return, Greg accuses Jack of being back in the CIA business because he saw him have a meeting with some guy at the drug store who gave him some passports and overheard him talking in Thai on the phone. (I seriously would not know what Thai even sounds like!) Jack says that he was planning a surprise honeymoon for the newlyweds to Thailand and is angry at Greg for ruining the surprise. Things are just spiraling out of control and even Pam thinks Greg should leave, so he heads to the airport with his bag which he has just gotten.

I was under the impression that Jack wanted his daughter to marry Kevin because they were buddies and he was really successful and he had respect for him and that's why he was such a jerk to Greg, but we learn from Dina that he didn't warm up to Kevin until after they broke up, which is a bit weird that her dad is buddy-buddy with her ex, but whatever. Dina tells him, "Nobody is good enough for your Pam" and he realizes this is true and heads to the airport to make things right with Greg. I'm glad they didn't have both parents be crazy and at least there's a reasonable parent, or I would have really felt bad for Greg! They wait to make both parents crazy in the second movie!

Meanwhile, at the airport, Greg has been kicked off the plane when he got into a fight with the flight attendant about his bag not fitting in the overhead department. He tells her, "It's not like I have a bomb in here! It's not like I want to blow up the plane!" This, of course, gets him kicked off the plane. Even in a pre-9/11 world, you could NOT say the word "bomb" on a plane! (The same actress will return as the flight attendant in the second movie for a brief moment and if I hadn't watched these movies back to back, I would have never even noticed that!)  Jack is able to talk to him and asks him if he wants to marry Pam and Greg tells him, "I did until I met you" which is really sad that he would not want to marry the love of his life because he's terrified of his girlfriend's father. Jack feels bad about this and says, "If I lighten up, would you consider marrying my daughter?" (Spoiler alert: he does NOT lighten up!) Greg agrees to this after standing up to Jack and asking him not to interfere with their lives so much and to stop making fun of him for being a nurse. They go back to the house, where, of course, he proposes to Pam (and uses Mr. Jinx to carry the ring on a little pillow...how adorable!)

Now it's time to meet the Fockers! Greg and Pam aren't married yet, but they're having their wedding in the near future. In the meantime, they're planning a trip to Florida with Mr. and Mrs. Byrnes so the two sets of parents can meet before the wedding. Nothing can absolutely go wrong with this plan! It has already been established that Pam has met the Fockers several times. It makes me wonder how that went. If Greg was worried about meeting HER parents, I bet he was much more concerned about his girlfriend meeting his parents! But nobody really cares about Pam meeting her future in-laws for the first time and the funnier story is the uptight and conservative Jack meeting the kooky and hippie-dippy Fockers for the first time.

They're all driving to Florida from New York in a huge RV with a cat (Mr. Jinx is back!) and Jack and Dina's one-year-old grandson they call "LJ" for Little Jack. He is Debbie and Bob's son and they are watching him while his parents are in Thailand (you remember, where they went for their honeymoon) opening a clinic. Wait, what clinic? It really makes no sense for this tot to be in the movie. He is only used as a plot device for a couple humorous scenes. If this were real life and grandparents were watching their grandson, they would NOT go on a trip across the country to visit their daughter's fiance's parents. No, they would reschedule when they weren't watching a one-year-old. Also, taking Mr. Jinx sounds like a really bad idea too. I would be worried that every time the RV stopped for a pit stop and the doors opened, the cat would get out and run away.

Father and Mother Focker
When they get to Florida and meet Bernie and Roz Focker (Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand), Dina at least has the decency to be polite, but you can sense the irritation coming from Jack. I can't say I really blame him. Bernie is one of those touchy-feely people who hugs people and plants raspberries on their necks. Look, a hug is fine, but don't kiss me, especially if we're meeting for the first time. Roz is a sex therapist for older couples and Greg wants her to keep that under wraps until they've gotten to know the Byrnes a bit better. He has to hide all these embarrassing statues and paintings of naked people in the den where Jack and Dina will be staying. His parents are very open about their sex life and this leads to a lot of embarrassing moments for poor Greg.

Bernie shows the Byrnes the "Wall of Gaylord" where they have displayed all of Greg's "accomplishments". Jack sees a medal ribbon and says, "I didn't know they made 9th place ribbons and Bernie tells him, "They got them all the way up to 10th place." (Really? I thought they only went up to 3rd place). Jack is not impressed.

There is a good call back to the first movie when Bernie toasts Pam and tells her if he had a daughter, he's want her to be just like Pam. Jack questions Greg about him telling him he had a sister and had milked her cat. Greg does not respond at all, just ignores him.

Pam tells Greg that she's pregnant and they decide to move the wedding up to June instead of October.They also agree not to tell anyone about the pregnancy until after the wedding, but Roz finds out and she tells Bernie and Pam ends up telling her mother, so Jack is the only one who doesn't know.

Even though I still maintain the baby had no reason being in this movie, there is a funny use of him in a scene where everyone is having dinner and the Focker's voluptuous Puerto Rican housekeeper, Isabel, who Greg had a crush on when he was a teenager, says hello to everyone and sees LJ. She automatically assumes he's Greg's and Pam's and says, "Ooh, he's a handsome little Focker" which elicited a giggle from me. Jack is quick to tell her that he's Pam's nephew and "he has no connection to Greg whatsoever." Even though they've made progress since the first movie, Jack is still not too keen on Greg and meeting his parents probably doesn't help matters. Greg is mortified when his parents reveal to the Brynes' that Greg lost his virginity to Isabel when he was 19. Jack does some investigating with this information and finds out that Isabel has a 15-year-old son, Jorge, who suspiciously looks a lot like Greg, who, coincidentally, was 19 fifteen years ago. The teenager has never met his dad and doesn't know who he is. He is sure that Greg knows about this and has been keeping it a secret from Pam and plans to out him by giving him truth serum at an engagement party Greg's parents are throwing for them. Fifty Fockers are expected to attend. "Fifty Fockers. What could be better?"

Jack invites Jorge to the party and introduces him to Greg, telling him that he's 15 and has never met his dad and plants doubt in Greg's mind that this could be his son. When he gives a speech, Greg reveals he may have a son he never knew about and that Pam is pregnant. It turns out Jorge is not Greg's son (maybe Isabel has a certain type) and everyone is angry at Jack when it is revealed he gave truth serum to Greg. Jack also finds out that everyone knew about the pregnancy and is hurt by this. He leaves, but Greg and his dad go to find him, yada, yada, yada, everyone is happy again and Greg and Pam get married.

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