One of the universal themes of comedy is the ridiculous lengths human beings will go to prove themselves to others. This strategy usually involves accommodation, putting on one's best behavior, or just plain sucking up. When the attempt to make a good impression involves a young man in love who is trying to score points with his girlfriend's father, the comic ante is quadrupled. Such is the case with this year's most hilarious comedy Meet the Parents directed by Jay Roach and written by Jim Herzfeld and John Hamburg.

Greg Focker's (Ben Stiller) name puts him in difficulty with strangers and so does his job — he's a male nurse at a Chicago hospital. He's madly in love with Pam (Teri Polo), a teacher who has invited him to spend a weekend with her parents on Long Island. Things start badly when his luggage is lost carrying the engagement ring he had planned to give her. Pam's parents, Jack (Robert De Niro) and Dina (Blythe Danner), are excited about the marriage of their other daughter, Debbie (Nicole DeHuff), to a doctor over the same weekend. When Pam warns Greg that "Humor is entirely wasted on my parents," she's not understating the point. It turns out that her father has spent 34 years doing psychological profiling for the CIA. He's a grim fellow who immediately senses that something's "a little off" with Greg.

In a scene that perfectly captures the superb comic elements of Meet the Parents, Greg is asked to say grace. The young man decides to tough it out with an improvised prayer that turns into a ramble ending with lines from the song "Day by Day" in the rock musical Godspell. During the catastrophic course of the weekend, Greg humiliates himself again and again trying to prove himself to Pam's suspicious and inhospitable father.

This comedy also pokes fun at class warfare, the suburban ethic, and the way all of us take out our anger on service professionals who push our buttons at the wrong time. Meet the Parents is a riotously funny, laugh-out-loud film from start to finish.