When we last left Jack Byrnes (Robert DeNiro)
in Meet the Parents, he had begrudgingly accepted
that perhaps he was too uptight. In dealing with his daughter's
fiancé, Greg Focker (Ben Stiller), his CIA training had
made him too suspicious, too anal retentive and to audiences,
too whacko to ever allow his family happiness. Lesson learned,
see, Meet the Parents, a cute but overrated comedy,
did fairly well at the box office by riffing off of DeNiro's
image for comedic effect. So a sequel has to mean more of
the same, only bigger. To sort of cover for the reset, Meet
the Fockers gives Jack a grandchild whose development
he is trying to protect from untoward influences, coupled
with putting him in an environment calculated to make him
as uncomfortable as possible.
Director Jay Roach almost fools us at the
start. Preparing for a trip to Florida with the Byrnes,
things go startlingly well for Greg. The only fly in the
ointment is an inability to get ahold of his parents - one
of the few repetitive gags that works, as their answering
machine message consists of them yelling at each other about
Once Greg gets to Jack's house, though,
it's back to business as usual, where Jack seems to accept
Greg for about ten seconds. To be fair, after two years,
even daughter Pam (Teri Polo) seems way too willing to close
Greg out when her father is around. Making matters worse,
the grandkid with conveniently absent parents (Spencer and
Bradley Pickren) has taken an instant dislike to Greg due
to gender confusion - Greg is a nurse and nurses should
be women. Even an infant knows that...especially one with
a ridiculously overdeveloped breast fixation that moves
from amusing to flat out disturbing.
Except for that weird bit with the kid,
the jokes seem harmless enough. True, screenwriters John
Hamburg and Jim Herzfeld wring as many puns out of the family
surname as they possibly can. And The Fockers (Dustin Hoffman
and Barbra Streisand) are as opposite from Jack as you might
imagine, especially Bernie.
Though Greg claimed his father was a lawyer
in order to make him seem more likable to Jack, Bernie quit
his practice to be a stay-at-home dad. To further freak
out the ex-CIA man, mom Roz works as a sex therapist. Dina
Byrnes (the elegant Blythe Danner), however, becomes very
curious when that particular truth gets revealed.
The film offers few surprises, with most
set pieces playing out the way you would imagine them. Yet
when it's not busy making DeNiro look uptight, Meet the
Fockers has a loopy relaxed charm. Most of that comes
from Hoffman and Streisand looking like they're actually
having a lot of fun with this movie, which allows Danner
to loosen up a bit, too.
also has toned down his urban angst act for this movie.
Maybe hanging around Owen Wilson will do that to a guy.
Unlike most of Stiller's tense characters, however, it's
completely understandable why Greg Focker walks on pins
and needles of embarassment. It's still a vivid enough character
that Roach could direct teen actor Ray Santiago in a recognizable
imitation without it seeming parody.
third act has trouble making it all the way home, with a
climax that seems rushed and choppy. Somewhere in there,
Roach meant to make a running gag about state troopers all
looking alike, but it ends up wasting fine comic actors
like Tim Blake Nelson and J.P. Manoux (the robot in Eurotrip)
under bushy mustaches and sunglasses. For personal reasons,
the movie gets points for giving veteran comic Shelley Berman
something to do.
Meet the Fockers will no doubt please
a lot of people. It's just lacking a spark to push it past
agreeable passing of time and into even halfway-memorable