Meet the Fockers
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Meet the Fockers

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Since almost the first motion pictures studios have embraced the sequel. If the audience reacted well to one movie they try to use the same formula to recreate the success. Unfortunately, most sequels can not live up to the expectation. When the comedy ‘Meet the Parents’ was a hit you could almost count the days until the sequel was released in the form of ‘Meet the Fockers’. While no one will place this film on the list of all time great sequels it did have enough laughs to make it worthwhile. This film basically starts where the previous one left off, Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo) are now officially engaged and the formidable task of Greg getting to know the Byrnes family is over. Now it is time for Pam and her clan to meet Greg’s parents, the Fockers. Her parents, Jack and Dina (Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner) decide they should all take a road trip to Focker Island Florida to meet Bernie (Dustin Hoffman) and Roz (Barbra Streisand). True to the form of comedies like this the two sets of parents are as different as night and day. Where Jack, an ex-CIA operative, is steadfast and somewhat uptight Bernie is new age, a man that took paternity leave from a successful law practice to help raise Greg and just never went back. Dina is a perfect match for her husband, staid, very proper, albeit cheerful, a person that enjoys everything in its place. The contrast to her is Roz, a popular sex therapist with such notable tomes to her name as ‘Meet your Organism’. The contrast is taken a little too far when it is expanded to include the family pets, a cat that can flush the toilet for the Byrnes and a tiny, neurotic dog for the Fockes.

Much of the humor is dependant on having seen the first film, continuations of jokes that began in ‘Parents’. I was able to identify a lot better with the first film than I could with this. I had some trepidation in asking my future father-in-law for his blessing but I doubt that anyone had a meeting of both sides of the family like this. The film does keep its sense of humor by not depending on the contrast between the families for all the jokes. The travel arrangements in an RV allows for some classic road trip jokes that the cast handles very well, sure we’ve seen these situations many times but not with a cast such as this. This is the kind of flick that you have to turn off the higher brain functions in order to get the most out of it. Now, some may think that this is a bad thing, not necessary so. There is so much to be concerned about now that it is a refreshing change of pace to let inner juvenile in you have a couple of laughs. One thing though, we got the joke with Greg’s family name, the writers felt it necessary to constantly remind us with very obvious word play.

Even though there are flaws to this movie it has a professional cast willing to give their all to the project. Many would not readily think of Robert De Niro as a comic actor but he is. While the first film and films like ‘Analyze This’ provide a better showcase De Niro has the chops ability to make the most out of the script. Perhaps its because we think of him for what he is, one of the greatest American actors of our time, that we laugh to see a man of his stature in such ridiculous situations. The films of Ben Stiller may seen to be very erratic but that is only because he is willing to take a chance with his humor. He is a nature when it comes to the physical comedy demanded by this film. With his everyday Joe look he can bring the audience in and let us identify with his woes. I don’t think that there is a role out there that Dustin Hoffman can not handle. He does seem to have a lot of fun with the wild, eccentric character of Bernie. With all the serious roles he has portrayed in his extraordinary career it appears that he wanted to just kick back and let his foolish side out for awhile.

Blythe Danner is of course great in her characterization of Dina. She has the pervading class to pull off such a role and make it work for her. Let the others in the cast Danner is able to take a role like this and do more with it than just about any other actress could have. It has been about eight years since Barbra Streisand has chosen to present her on the big screen. While many may think that it is a little odd that this is the film she chose for her big come back but it was. Streisand plays Roz as an academic diva, a free spirit that talks about the most intimate topics as if she was saying hello. Few actresses have the sheer screen presence to even come close to making this role work. Since Streisand is bigger than life we laugh with her, never at her. In all the cast has fun with their roles, they know that they are cartoonish but in this film they embrace it.

The only real flaw in this film is an uneven script but it works on the level that it does in large part to the director, Jay Roach. This man has brought a lot of laughter to audiences with the Austin Powers flicks and, of course, the Meet the Parents flick. Here is does miss a little on the pacing, trying the shot gun approach to comedy. If you don’t like the current joke just wait a minute fir the next one. Roach was able to handle the stellar cast extremely well, letting them cut loose and interpret the characters as they saw fit.

Universal did extremely well in the presentation of this movie on DVD. First, they provided an extended version of the film. It would have been nice to have the theatrical version it looks like the studio wanted to add a little more to help get this DVD out there. The audio is a realistic Dolby 5.1; it provides an excellent surround feel, rich and full. Every little effort of the Foley artist is audible. The video is also above average, crisp and clear with no signs of edge enhancement at all. For extras there are a lot of featurettes to keep you watching long after the film is done. One if the Focker’s Family Portrait, a look at the Focker dysfunction interaction presented by Hoffman, Streisand and Stiller. Jinx the toilet flushing cat gets his own featurette as does the weird device that permits men to enjoy the bonding experience of nursing. Rounding things off is a look at the unusual job of baby wrangler. If you have the first film this is a good addition for you. For those that just want to sit back and enjoy some good old fashion puerile humor, get it, order a pizza and have some friends over for a laugh.

Posted 4/26/05

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