Meet the Parents is a 2000 American comedy film written by Jim Herzfeld and John Hamburg and directed by Jay Roach. Starring Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller, the film chronicles a series of unfortunate events that befall a good-hearted but hapless nurse while visiting his girlfriend's parents. Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, and Owen Wilson also star.
Meet the Parents is a remake of a 1992 film of the same name directed by Greg Glienna and produced by Jim Vincent. Glienna—who also played the original film's main protagonist—and Mary Ruth Clarke co-wrote the screenplay. Universal Pictures purchased the rights to Glienna's film with the intent of creating a new version. Jim Herzfeld expanded the original script but development was halted for some time. Jay Roach read the expanded script and expressed his desire to direct the film but Universal declined him. At that time, Steven Spielberg was interested in directing the film while Jim Carrey was interested in playing the lead role. The studio only offered the film to Roach once Spielberg and Carrey left the project.
Released in the United States and Canada on October 6, 2000 and distributed by Universal Studios, the film earned back its initial budget of $55 million in only eleven days. It went on to become one of the highest grossing films of 2000, earning over $160 million in North America and over $330 million worldwide. Meet the Parents was well received by film critics and viewers alike, winning several awards and earning additional nominations. Ben Stiller won two comedy awards for his performance and the film was chosen as the Favorite Comedy Motion Picture at the 2001 People's Choice Awards. The success of Meet the Parents inspired two film sequels, namely Meet the Fockers and Little Fockers released in 2004 and 2010 respectively. Meet the Parents also inspired a reality television show titled Meet My Folks and a situation comedy titled In-Laws, both of them debuting on NBC in 2002.
Gaylord "Greg" Focker (Ben Stiller) is a nurse living in Chicago. He intends to propose to his girlfriend Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo), but his plan is disrupted when he learns that Pam's sister's fiance had asked Pam's father for permission before proposing. Greg and Pam travel to Pam's parents' house to attend Pam's sister's wedding. Greg hopes to propose to Pam in front of her family after receiving her father's permission, but this plan is put on hold when the airline loses his luggage, including the engagement ring.
At the Byrnes' home on Long Island, Greg meets Pam's father Jack (Robert De Niro), mother Dina (Blythe Danner) and their beloved cat Jinx (also named Mr. Jinx or Jinxy), a brown and black Himalayan cat. Jack immediately takes a dislike to Greg and openly criticizes him for his choice of career as a male nurse and whatever else he sees as a difference between Greg and the Byrnes family. Despite Greg's best efforts to impress Jack, they either go unnoticed or fail completely. While listening to the song "Puff the Magic Dragon" on the car radio and mentioning the possible subtle drug references in the lyrics, Greg inadvertently leads Jack into thinking he is a marijuana user, and later Jack discovers a marijuana pipe which he thinks belongs to Greg (it actually belong's to Pam's brother).
At dinner, Greg is asked to lead a prayer (despite being Jewish) and he recites the lyrics from "Day by Day", a song in the musical "Godspell". Greg also makes up a story about milking a cat in an attempt to explain why Jack caught him earlier reading a pharmacy magazine about lactation. Greg then presents the Byrnes with a bottle of champagne, but as soon as Jack mentions that Pam had a previous fiance, the cork suddenly pops off and smashes an urn containing the ashes of Jack's deceased mother, which Jinx proceeds to urinate on. Greg becomes even more uncomfortable when Jack gives him an inpromptu lie detector test, and Pam reveals that he is a recently retired CIA counterintelligence officer.
Meeting the rest of the Byynes family and friends, including Pam's sister Debbie and her fiance, his parents, and Pam's highly successful, both financially and spiritually, ex-husband Kevin, Greg still feels like an outsider. Things between Greg and Jack go from bad to worse during a game of pool volleyball, where Jack criticizes Greg's poor playing skills. Greg's attempt to play more seriously ends in disaster after he accidentally hits Debbie in the face while spiking the ball, giving her a black eye and bloody nose. Later, Greg lands himself in even more hot water when he uses a malfunctioning toilet that floods the Byrnes' backyard with raw sewage (although he attempts to blame Jinx for it, which Jack obviously does not believe).
Eventually, the airline delivers the luggage that Greg lost, but he discovers that it is the wrong luggage. Greg contacts the airline and attempts to resolve the mix-up, and in the process, accidentally lets Jinx loose. Greg chases after Jinx and ends up on the roof, and despite his best efforts, Jinx gets away. To add insult to injury, a fire starts in the gutter due to Greg carelessly discarding a lit cigarette, and Greg's attempts to extinguish the blaze cause a chain reaction that sets most of the backyard on fire and destroys a wedding altar that Kevin sculpted for Debbie's wedding.
Meanwhile, Jack conducts a background check on Greg's MCAT scores and finds no record on anyone named Greg Focker ever taking the MCAT's. He then inspects the luggage that Greg mistakenly received and discovers an assortment of sexual toys and gimmicks. Jack then jumps to the false conclusion that Greg is not a real nurse, but a drug dealer posing as a hospital worker for easy access, per the previous discussion about "Puff the Magic Dragon". Later, the Byrnes family discovers Jinx missing, prompting Greg to go to an animal shelter where he finds a feral cat that looks almost exactly like Jinx except for a white tip on the tail (whereas Jinx had an all-black tail), puts Jinx's collar on him, and spray-paints the tail to make the cat look like Jinx. While the entire family is out to dinner, Jack gets a voicemail from one of his neighbors saying that Jinx was found in their backyard. On the way home, Greg realizes that Jack has found out about the switcheroo and desperately tries to beat him home to erase the evidence, but fails when Jack takes a shortcut.
Upon entering the house, the family is horrified to discover the stray cat has completely destroyed the living room. This is the last straw for Jack, who calls out Greg in front of the entire family for his consistent dishonesty and demands he leave his house and break up with Pam. To Greg's dismay, the entire family, including Pam, take Jack's side and agree that Greg should leave. In a last ditch effort to save himself, Greg reveals that he has witnessed Jack talking to strange characters throughout his stay (including speaking to someone over the phone in Thai and meeting with an individual in a drug store parking lot) and is planning a secret mission to Thailand after Debbie's wedding, thus lying about being retired from the CIA. However, Greg realizes the hole he dug himself into got much deeper as Jack angrily explains that he was actually planning a surprise honeymoon to Ko Samui for the newlywed couple, and that the person he was meeting with in the parking lot was a travel agent giving him their visas.
As a result, Greg and Pam end their relationship and Greg leaves. Outside, an airport worker shows up with Greg's real missing luggage, which was under Greg's real name "Gaylord", much to the amusement of the Byrnes's. At the airport, still disappointed about the break-up and the luggage fiasco, Greg causes a scene on the airplane when he is asked to check in his bag as it could not fit into the overhead storage bin, and is detained by security when he refuses and utters the word "bomb". Back at the Byrnes's house, despite Pam providing proof that Greg actually did ace the MCAT's, Jack still believes that he will be an unsuitable husband due to his lack of honesty and incompetence. But after receiving retribution from Pam and his wife, with the latter claiming that he never warmed up to Kevin until after he split from Pam, Jack realizes that Greg truly loves Pam and rushes to the airport, convinces airport security to release him, and requests Greg to be honest about everything that transpired.
Greg admits that he loves Pam and everything he did before was out of desparation to win Jack's approval. Jack then admits that maybe he was a bit too harsh on Greg and brings him back to the Byrnes's house. Greg then proposes to Pam, which she accepts, and her parents think that they should now meet Greg's parents. After Debbie's wedding, Jack views footage of Greg recorded by hidden cameras that he placed strategically around the house.
- Robert De Niro as Jack Byrnes
- Ben Stiller as Gaylord "Greg" Focker
- Teri Polo as Pam Byrnes
- Blythe Danner as Dina Byrnes
- Nicole DeHuff as Deborah Byrnes
- Jon Abrahams as Denny Byrnes
- Owen Wilson as Kevin Rawley
- James Rebhorn as Dr. Larry Banks
- Thomas McCarthy as Dr. Robert "Bob" Banks
- Phyllis George as Linda Banks