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Meet the Parents

Astutely observed, subtly played and consistently hilarious, this family farce marks a change of pace for Austin Powers director Roach, who directs his perfectly matched stars, De Niro and Stiller, with a keen eye for comically exaggerated yet instantly recognisable human behaviour. For Jewish, cat-hating male nurse Greg Focker (Stiller), a visit to his girlfriend Pam's WASP family home quickly degenerates into a nightmarish series of gauche faux pas and embarrassing humiliations. His creepy prospective father-in-law, cat-loving ex-CIA operative Jack Byrnes (De Niro), cuts him no slack, using his specialist psychological profiling skills to keep eager to please Greg on the back foot at all times. It starts with lost luggage and ends with cat-painting, with plenty of foot in mouth and a little firestarting in between. De Niro has never been better; even so, Stiller's versatile and prodigious comic talent more than allows him to hold his own. If the screenplay has a fault, it's an over-emphasis on the Oedipal conflict between the two males, which often reduces Pam (Polo) and her likeable ditzy mother (Danner) to little more than spectators. As Pam's oh so perfect old flame Kevin, Wilson fares much better.

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