Meet the Fockers

Meet the Fockers is the sequel to the quite successful 2000 comedy Meet the Parents, where Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) was introduced to his girlfriend Pam’s (Teri Polo) parents Jack and Dina Byrnes (Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner). The comedy in that movie was mainly derived from the nervous Greg trying to get along with the stern and highly suspicious Jack. Despite the gimmick (“Imagine going home to meet your girlfriend’s parents and her dad is Robert De Niro! Hardeeharhar!!”), Meet the Parents succeeded because it was genuinely funny and filled with good performances. Is the sequel as good? Meet the Fockers continues the story of Greg and Pam, who are about to get married in six months so they arrange for her parents to meet his parents, Bernie and Roz Focker (Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand). Bernie and Roz turn out to be Parents from Hell, too, but in a diametrically opposed manner from Jack and Dina. Bernie is an ex-lawyer turned stay-at-home dad and Roz is a senior sex therapist. Both are ex-hippies and extremely comfortable with their sexuality. Of course, the still-uptight Jack thinks they’re loons, and his suspicions from the first movie about Greg flare up again once he has to deal with Greg’s flaky parents. Throw in an amorous dog and Jack’s grandson (nephew of Pam) you have plenty of opportunities for more comedy centering on humiliating Greg.

I enjoyed Meet the Fockers. Like Meet the Parents it is a genuinely funny comedy centering on good performances. Despite even more stunt casting (Hoffman and Streisand), like the original it doesn’t get in the way of the movie. None of the veteran actors try to upstage Ben Stiller, who did some of his best work with the original and continues with this sequel by managing to portray an ordinary, decent guy who continually has try to summon grace under pressure. He grounds the picture(s) by being someone with whom we can sympathize. This movie is an ensemble effort and it works wonderfully. I don’t think it’s better than the original, but it certainly stands up well on its own. If I have any complaint it's that some of the humor does fall flat, especially the more vulgar bits (are ankle-loving dogs really funny any more?) and it loses a little steam as it goes. I also wish the women characters had more to do, but really the story is more about Bernie and Jack’s antagonism and Greg’s desperate attempts to keep the peace between them. The DVD is decent: I don’t spend as much time noticing cinematography or sound when dealing with a comedy (as opposed to, say, historical epics), but Meet the Fockers has good values in both sight and sound. The music is never obtrusive so the dialog is always intelligible. The Florida exteriors look gorgeous on this disc, and if you feel like some extra childish giggles, step through the scenes of the interiors of the Focker’s house (especially Roz’s office).

The extras are so-so: among them are the commentary by director Jay Roach and editor/co-producer Jon Poll that is fairly interesting. Like many commentaries it wavers between scene dissection (which I don’t like) and behind-the-scene production difficulties and how they are solved (which I do like). The extended edition is somewhat irritating: like Ray the new scenes were just thrown in approximately where they would have been in the original, and the transitions are jarring with the sound and colors not matching up correctly. I say either add the scenes back in smoothly so you don’t knock your audience out of the picture, or make a deleted scenes section and keep them out of the original entirely.

So Meet the Fockers is a good follow-up to Meet the Parents; not as good but worth the time, I think, despite mediocre reviews when it was released theatrically. Anyone who has had a nervous breakdown when dealing with their significant other’s parents (or dealing with your own) will be able to sympathize with the decent but hapless Greg. Both movies are most likely great Date movies, and if you and your significant feel like a marathon renting these two films back-to-back will make for a pleasant evening.