March 09, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

How much you enjoy Meet the Parents will depend on how funny you find the following: (1) potty-trained cats, (2) male nurses, (3) guys named Gaylord Focker. You’d better love that last one — Focker is used as a punchline no fewer than 25 times. As male nurse Focker, Ben Stiller works hard to milk the generic gags for all they’re worth. As his intimidating future father-in-law, a retired CIA agent, Robert De Niro merely squints and mugs like a bad De Niro impersonator.

For a truly inspired farce involving espionage and potential relatives by marriage, rent The In-Laws instead. Alan Arkin and Peter Falk costar as a nebbishy dentist and his daughter’s prospective father-in-law, a lunatic CIA operative. Whereas Parents goes for easy laughs, The In-Laws leads Arkin and Falk on an uproariously unpredictable chase involving gigantic tsetse flies, the Bay of Pigs invasion, and a corrupt generalissimo (Richard Libertini) with a Senor Wences fixation. Now, that focker’s funny. Meet the Parents: C; The In-Laws: A

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