Meet the Fockers

written by John Hamburg and James Herzfeld

directed by Jay Roach

starring Ben Stiller, Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, Barbara Streisand and Blythe Danner


review by Stephen Notley

I'd long avoided Meet the Parents. The trailers never looked funny and there was something about the pairing of Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro that spoke against hilarity. It was a pleasant surprise, then, to discover that Meet The Parents, while not choking with high-level laffs, is actually a pretty good little comedy, taking a simple premise (anxiety about meeting a fiancé's parents) and taking it to its illogical extreme by ratcheting it up through ever-increasing levels of mayhem and chaos. Stiller's Gaylord Focker was actually quite watchable as the same kind of guy as he was in There's Something About Mary, a well-intentioned dude whose every good gesture mutates into some kind of apocalyptic accident, while DeNiro, by not trying to be funny, actually was.

Meet the Parents ends with reconciliation between Stiller and DeNiro, the path cleared for Stiller to marry DeNiro's daughter, and an obvious lead-in to a sequel as DeNiro muses "We're still going to have to meet his parents." Thus Meet the Fockers, featuring everybody from the first movie plus Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand as the elder Fockers.

It's easy to imagine how Hoffman and Streisand could set off the same alarm bells as Stiller-DeNiro, but really, it's not so bad; sequel-wise, Meet the Fockers is quite tolerable. The style of comedy is much the same, playing on the inherent amusement value of names like "Gaylord" and "Focker", making cracks about the fact that Stiller's character is a male nurse, drawing out various gags involving a mischievous cat, a horny dog and an impressionable infant who learns to say "asshole". True, Meet the Fockers lacks the clear comic structure of the original, but it manages to substitute a kind of friendly amiability, mostly stemming from Hoffman and Streisand as the titular Fockers, loosey-goosey hippy types who live in Miami.

If Meet the Parents was the nightmare of finding out your fiancé's parents hate your guts and everything you do to make it better makes it worse, Meet the Fockers is the nightmare of the most embarrassing parents ever. It's not bad enough that they named their son "Gaylord", but they're so full to the brim with simple pride and love for their son that they can't resist telling horrendously awkward stories about his foreskin and how he lost his virginity. This time around, however, it's not Stiller in the nutcracker but rather DeNiro in the friendly-squishy padded pillow as everybody teams up to try to mellow him out. It's a reasonable twist on the premise of the original, touching on the same themes of secrecy and trust, and not just an emotional do-over.

So Meet the Fockers performs better than expected, delivering a thin but steady stream of amusement much like the stream of milk that emerges from the plastic breast DeNiro wears to nurse his grandson. Sound like fun? Then by all means, check it out.