MEET THE FOCKERS
A little while ago, Gaylord 'Greg' Focker (Ben Stiller) accepted the invitation to meet the Byrnes, the parents of his fiancee Pam (Teri Polo); that weekend turned out a disaster. Now, with the wedding date set, it's time for the Byrnes to meet the Fockers - Greg's parents Bernie and Roz (Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand). Ex-CIA operative Jack Byrnes (Robert DeNiro) has a new, armour plated coach, a combination of luxury touring home and security centre, in which he takes the young couple, his wife Dina (Blythe Danner) and their lapdog to the slightly exotic Focker home in Cocoanut grove, where Bernie is house husband and Roz is a sex therapist to the older set. And the cat can flush the toilet. Their liberal, touchy-feely approach to life contrasts totally with Jack's austere and reserved persona. When Jack becomes suspicious that Greg might be the father of the illegitimate 15 year old son of the Fockers' long serving housekeeper Isabel (Alanna Ubach), the families are thrown into bitter chaos.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The lie detector test is back, this time with Jack (Robert DeNiro) injecting the 'truth drug' into Gaylord, in order to get the 'truth' about Gaylord's first sexual encounter with the family housekeeper, a sultry Isabel still looking like a sex kitten in a low cut floral dress clinging to her shapely body. In the original, it was a physical lie detector....so this is the signature element for Jack's character, underlining his persona as a man who thinks the truth is that simple. Jack, to be sure, is a simple sort of conservative, whose catch phrases about 'the circle of trust' are the running gag through both Meet The Parents and now Meet The Fockers - or the other set of parents.
Perhaps the filmmakers hoped that we the audience would also remain within their circle of trust, rehashing the concept and taking it to its logically humorous conclusion. We are willing, but the script is weak. The expensive cast is given cheap jokes and overstatement kills nearly every idea that emerges from the writers. The basic concept relies on the thrusting together of two sets of opposites in the Byrnes and the Fockers (not unlike La Cage aux Folles, but executed with less creative flair) in which all the predictable gags can be worked up into bits of business. And sure, some do work, at least on a simplistic level. There are even a couple of moments of soft core political satire aimed at the conservative flanks of US society, with lines from Jack the patriot.
But the script strays too far from genuine character, turning everyone into monstrous exaggerations of their personas, or in the case of Pam (Teri Polo) going in the opposite direction and making her a shallow fixture on the back wall. Ben Stiller does his Ben Stiller routine and you either buy it or not, and DeNiro makes an unlikebable, inflexible and downright rude Jack seem at once anti-American in nature, and pro-America in military terms. Hoffman and Streisand work well as a life loving couple, energising their scenes with a credible strain of madcap fun.
The other human star is a toddler who doesn't speak, the Byrnes' grandson, put through several scenes where he is made to ape for the camera. Other scenes in which he's genuinely upset are not so entertaining; his frequent presence seems to be entirely motivated by the rather thin payoff of him making a rough attempt at (vaguely) repeating the one word from Gaylord's vocabulary that he shouldn't: 'aaash-hole'.
Genuine laughs are intermittent and the film plays in a grating tone for most of its running time, but fans will lap it up for its more obvious nudge-nudge qualities.
Review by Louise Keller:
The ideas behind Meet The Fockers are the best part of this zany sequel to Meet The Parents, but getting Fockerised is not as funny as it should be. Every single drop of juice is squeezed out of every joke, so each gag is overdone. The filmmakers would have been well advised to take heed from the joke involving a piece of foreskin and the Focker fondue, and circumcise the film. But no doubt there were egos to massage, and it did look as though everyone was having a good time. Mind you, the casting of Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand as the eccentric parent Fockers is as inspired as expected, and the sight of Streisand riding on Robert De Niro's back, trying to massage out his kinks is one you won't forget. Much of the humour is visual, and it's hard to imagine anything much kinkier than De Niro wearing a harness featuring a rubber breast and nipple.
Made by the same team as the original, the focus this time lies on the relationship between De Niro's competitive, paranoid, ex-CIA ('I'm watching you') Jack Byrnes and the free-spirited senior Fockers, whose life limbos to their libidos. Hoffman is a delight as the wacky, laid-back Mr Mom, who believes in the Brazilian martial arts program of Capeoira, encouraging mediocrity and hugging, while Streisand is in top comedic form as author of books like 'Is Your Vagina Happy?' and a sexual therapist to the mature set.
There are more laughs with the Byrnes' exquisite long-haired Himalayan cat Mr Jinx, who once again showcases his talents at toilet flushing, this time getting the better of the Focker's little pooch Moses. The other sure-fire laugh-prompter comes from a cute little toddler (playing De Niro's grandson), who is in the process of being trained to 'self soothe'. Self soothing and hugging are not compatible, as the Fockers and Byrnes discover. Jack Jnr has been artfully taught to use sign language to convey his every whim, and needless to say, his much awaited 'first word' is not what Jack Snr expects.
Ben Stiller's male nurse Greg (real name Gaylord; Gay for short) remains as droll as ever (yes, Streisand and Stiller make a great mother and son with similar nose profiles!) and there's a delightful cameo at the film's end with Owen Wilson, as the still-besotted love-hippie ex of Teri Polo's bride-to-be. Blythe Danner is terrific as De Niro's affection-starved wife, eager to get tips from Streisand's sexpert and the sub plot involving buxom housekeeper Isabelle (Alanna Ubach, wonderful), who helped Greg lose his virginity 15 years previously, is a lot of fun.
The joke about the Focker name gets rather tiresome by the end, and we could have done without meeting cousins Randy and Orny. Even the best jokes need a light touch, and overkill can quickly kill a laugh. I did enjoy meeting the Fockers, but I was hoping for more.
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MEET THE FOCKERS (M)
CAST: Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Blythe Danner, Barbra Streisand, Teri Polo
PRODUCER: Robert De Niro, Jay Roach, Jane Rosenthal
DIRECTOR: Jay Roach
SCRIPT: John Hamburg
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Schwartzman
EDITOR: Jon Poll
MUSIC: Randy Newman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Rusty Smith
RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2004