Meet the Parents is a 1992 American independent comedy film written by Greg Glienna and Mary Ruth Clarke. Glienna also directed and starred in the film as the male protagonist, Greg. The film is about a young man meeting his girlfriend's parents for the first time and the problems that arise when the girl's father takes a disliking to him.
Filmed on a budget of approximately $100,000 and shot in and around Chicago, Meet the Parents was not widely distributed and did not earn a large profit at the box office upon its limited release. It did, however, garner some critical acclaim and film industry attention towards remaking the film on a bigger budget.
Several years after the film's release, Universal Studios purchased the rights to the independent film. After hiring screenwriter Jim Herzfeld to expand the script, a new version of Meet the Parents was filmed and released in October 2000. The 2000 version in turn inspired two movie sequels and two television series.
A man (John Dacosse), on his way to meet his fiancée's parents, stops to get gas at a gas station. He mentions his plans to the attendant (Jim Vincent), who advises him against it. He tells the tale of Greg (Greg Glienna) and Pam (Jacqueline Cahill), who were a couple in a similar situation...with a disastrous outcome.
Greg sets off a number of incidences that bring shame and disappointment upon his character, leaving Pam's parents (Dick Galloway & Carol Whelan) with an unadmirable and undesirable son-in-law. After breaking the prized Victrola, ruining the roast, renting the only Andy Griffith slasher/porno movie in existence, clogging the toilet, stabbing the mother's eye with a fishing pole, being framed for marijuana possession, wrecking the car, drowning the dog, losing a fight with an ex-boyfriend (Harry Hickstein), and knocking over an urn, Greg has no reputation left to lose. Throughout the visit, Pam's sister Fay, an aspiring singer who can't hold a note, keeps insisting Greg hear her audition, since she mistakenly thinks he has ties with Ed McMahon from Star Search. Greg plans to flee the house with Pam to prevent any more damage, but Fay isn't letting him leave without hearing her sing. Greg's car has conveniently broken down, leaving him no choice but to hear Fay sing.
Once the tortuous ballad entitled "When Philip's There" has ended, Greg is asked to give suggestions. Fearing to start a fuss, he refuses to speak his mind; but Fay's not letting him leave without giving input either. Greg gives slight criticism, leaving her fuming mad. At this point, Pam and her parents have had enough with Greg and force him to leave the house. Greg, surrendered (or perhaps unchained), approaches the front door. Meanwhile, Pam's scream coming from her sister's room upstairs startles the parents. Fay has hung herself, with a sign reading (in smeared lipstick) "Greg killed me" around her neck. The father is mortified. He grabs his gun and rushes down the stairs to the foyer. We cut back to the gas station where the attendant reveals what happens in the end. The customer seems very uneasy about meeting his fiancée's parents now, but once that customer leaves - in walks another one. The next customer (Marc Vann) is on his way to the circus - and the attendant advises him against it, beginning a whole new story.Greg Glienna — GregJacqueline Cahill — Pam BurnsMary Ruth Clarke — Fay BurnsDick Galloway — Irv BurnsCarol Whelan — Kay BurnsJim Vincent — Gas Station AttendantJohn Dacosse — CustomerHarry Hickstein — LeeEmo Philips — Video Store Clerk
Film critic Suzan Ayscough reviewed the film for Variety magazine in 1992. In her review, she called the film a "wonderfully twisted black comedy" even though she believed it to be "excessive and occasionally overdone." Ayscough predicted that the film "could garner a cult following among anti-establishment urbanites" due to its "blatant attack on marriage, suburban indifference, Christian hypocrisy and the nuclear family" and unsuitability for mainstream audiences. Opining that the "script desperately needed an objective eye," she concluded by calling the film an "amusing vehicle which aptly displays the multiple talents of Greg Glienna."
Film producer Elliot Grove, founder of Raindance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards, listed the original Meet the Parents on his personal Top Ten list of favorite films. In the article, he called it "much funnier and tighter than the Hollywood version."
Meet the Parents (2000) and sequels
Producer Nancy Tenenbaum acquired the rights to the original film and then she sent a copy to several people of interest hoping to have a new version of the film made. Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh replied that he was interested and that he wanted to direct a remake. He brought it to the attention of Universal Studios who initially declined but subsequently optioned the rights to the film in 1995. Sodebergh took on the project but then dropped it when he got involved with Out of Sight.
In 1995 Universal Studios purchased the rights to the film. The screenplay was expanded by screenwriter Jim Herzfeld and film director Jay Roach was hired to direct the 2000 version of Meet the Parents with Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro in the leading roles. Distributed by Universal Studios domestically and by United International Pictures internationally, the remade film was a big financial success earning $166.2 million in the United States and a total of $330.4 million worldwide.
The 2000 version in turn inspired two movie sequels, Meet the Fockers (2004) and Little Fockers (2010), as well as two NBC shows in 2002, each failing to get renewed: a reality television show entitled Meet My Folks and a situation comedy entitled In-Laws.