Our story begins when a male nurse named Greg Focker (Stiller) is about to propose to his girlfriend, Pam (Teri Polo); unfortunately, things come to worst and before Greg can say, "Will you marry me?" he finds out that Pam's father, Jack (Robert De Niro) approved of Pam's sister's fiancé because he asked Jack's permission to marry her first. Taken aback, Greg decides to wait until tomorrow, whence they are going to meet Pam's parents, and ask Jack for approval before proposing to Pam. Should be a piece of cake, right? Wrong. Pam's mother (Blythe Danner) is very nice, but herein lies the problem: Not only is it apparent from the start that Pam's plant-expert father is not really a plant-expert (as Greg learns after Jack doesn't seem to recognize a plant Greg gives to him--one of the rarest plants in the world), but it turns out Jack is really in the CIA and was a "human lie detector," as Pam herself puts it. In fact, Jack even gives Greg a lie detector test in one scene to see if he liked the dinner earlier in the evening. "Yes," Greg replies, to see the needle jumping. "Well, it was a little rare for my tastes, maybe." Greg, desperately seeking approval (and nervous as ever), seems to unintentionally cause mayhem in his possible parents-to-be's home. Nerves shot like a drug addict, Greg is the definition of a nervous wreck, and all his problems seem to escalate more and more until a funny-if-sappy comedic showdown.
You know how sometimes you are really nervous, but try to hide the fact? You seem to keep your cool, until you do something, then all your nervousness explodes and you start knocking over things, saying stupid things--single-handedly DOING stupid things that you just never do? And then you look around and everyone is looking at you like you are some sort of freak? Well, that's how it is with Greg's character in "Meet the Parents"--he is so easy to identify with. Just like all of us, we want to keep our cool and impress people--but once we lose it, the coolness seems to slip farther and farther away from our grip until we are klutzes on feet. For Greg's character, small things turn bigger and bigger and bigger--from knocking over the remains of Jack's mother (and having a cat go to the bathroom on the remains), to setting the house on fire and busting the septic tank. Situations seem to escalate farther and farther out of control and they just keep getting worse and worse.
In one scene, Greg tries to impress everyone while playing volleyball in a pool. His team is losing because of him. "Get up and hit the ball," Jack says to him. So the next time the ball comes around to Greg, he jumps up and smacks the ball with all his might, sending it flying towards...Pam's sister (whose wedding is the next day), shattering her nose. Greg lands back in the pool and seems to be happy, until he realizes he smacked his sister-in-law-to-be in the nose. Then everyone looks at him like he's an insensitive idiot.
Things like that have happened to me countless times, and that is why I can so easily identify with Greg. People are yelling at Greg to do something, and when he finally does it, it backfires and everyone looks at him like he's stupid, even though he did exactly what he was told.
That's the kind of thing that makes this movie so great--not only is it extremely funny, but we can easily identify with the main character countless times throughout the film. That is, perhaps, the best thing about this comedy.