Paramount // 2000 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 12th, 2006
He's a relative nightmare.
The similarities between this direct-to-video film and the mega-hit Meet the Parents are inescapable. Anxious boyfriend. Good-looking blonde girlfriend. Overbearing father. Weird family members. Bodily fluids. But both films were unveiled in 2000, so I don't think there's a copycat argument to be made. There is, however, a "man, nothing in this movie is as funny as Ben Stiller spiking a volleyball in a girl's face" argument.
Peter (Josh Charles, S.W.A.T.) is an aspiring writer, toiling away at his first novel, embroiled in a romance with the girl of his dreams, Melanie (Alexandra Wentworth). Their relationship has arrived at that most anxiety-provoking of places: meeting the significant other's family. For Peter, that means a trip to Georgia, which will most certainly be a culture shock for his L.A. sensibilities.
And indeed it is. Peter is whacked immediately by the oppressive heat, the eccentricities of the townsfolk, and, most notably, Melanie's father, Colonel Branson (Lloyd Bridges, Hot Shots!). The Colonel (and he only wants to be referred to as "The Colonel") is an old man, firm in his beliefs, and very protective of his daughter. Living with him are Melanie's two oddball brothers, Dink (Walter Olkewicz) and Larry (Beau Bridges).
What ensues for Peter is a weekend of celibacy, disgusting lasagna, temptation (in the form of Kristy Swanson), vomiting, and nursing home subterfuge. What toll will all this weirdness have on Peter and Melanie's relationship?
Meeting Daddy is one of those films that probably looked marginally entertaining on paper, but upon its translation to the three-dimensional realm, someone (my guess is the Crappy Movie Monster) sucked all the energy and fun out of it. If you were to run down some of the gags, the flick looks like it had a shot at scoring some solid laughs:
* Severed body part in a jar of formaldehyde? Check.
* Puking epidemic? Check.
* Awkward conversations with the overly religious brother? Check.
* Good-looking blonde in a wet t-shirt? Check.
* Racist old man? Check.
* Bottled urine? Check.
* Relationship strife? Check.
* Trouble-brewing misunderstandings? Check.
Too bad the film fans way more than it connects. I've always liked Josh Charles, and thought he was awesome in the criminally unappreciated Sports Night, but I'm just not feeling it here. I don't want to come off sounding like Randy Jackson with a vague bit of crypto-hip criticism, but the guy just didn't seem that energized, especially for a leading man in a comedy. His character is an appropriate microcosm for the entire movie. It just feels tedious. There's no comic timing, the sight gags fall flat and feel wholly contrived, and, overall, much potential is wasted.
Lloyd Bridges, in his final screen role, comes across merely as a slightly eccentric old man (and I mean old -- was he, like, 70 when he fathered Melanie?) and boasts none of the clueless wit that characterized his comic performances in Airplane and Hot Shots! The two "wacky" brothers are underutilized, Wentworth is merely serviceable as the straight-arrow love interest, and Kristy Swanson's role is little more than an inflated cameo. There's a brief scene between her and Peter, and a semblance of forthcoming raunchiness, but it's never followed through, rendering her presence utterly pointless.
I guess I wasn't ever clear on what this film wanted to be: a screwball comedy or a semi-serious meditation on relationships? There are elements of both genres at play here, but they never seem to blend. In the end, I just felt I was watching a movie that didn't know what it wanted to be, and in its hackneyed pursuit to evoke a multitude of reactions, it succeeded in eliciting nothing.
A threadbare release (2.0 stereo, full frame, no extras) and a mediocre-at-best misfire of a comedy make for a DVD release that will come and go with no one batting an eye. Bummer. Lloyd Bridges always cracked me up.
Maybe if there were a scene where a cat peed in a loved one's cremated remains the court would look more favorably -- oh, wait.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Rated R