Prepare to be Fockerised
BEFORE YOU even buy your ticket for Meet The Fockers, you know you are in for a lot of ‘focker’ puns. The stars of Meet The Parents have reunited for the follow-up. Now that the date is set for the wedding between Gaylord (Ben Stiller) and his fiancée (Teri Polo), their parents must meet.
They decide that spending a weekend together is the perfect way to do it. The tightly-wound Byrnes (De Niro and Danner) have nothing in common with the loose, free-wheeling Fockers, Barbra Streisand as Mother Focker and Dustin Hoffman as Pops. A legitimate continuation of the first film, Meet The Fockers does not spoon-feed a re-hash of the first movie. The comedy hinges on the differences between the opposite families. The Fockers live in a hippie-like hamlet in Florida, but might have once called a commune in Woodstock home. Bernie Focker is a househusband and Roz is a sex therapist. Their liberal touchy-feely approach to life contrasts totally with Jack Byrnes’ austere and reserved persona. As a doting mother, loving wife, author of books such as ‘Is Your Vagina Happy?’ and enthusiastic sexual healer, Streisand and her cascade of curls are charmingly back on screen. She is a little ill at ease in group scenes but generates a real warmth in her intimate exchanges with Stiller and Hoffman.
What makes the film is the ensemble of actors – the group of six have great chemistry. However, some of the biggest laughs are from Jack Jnr, who is in the process of being trained to self-soothe. He 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!
Jinxy, the pampered Persian cat, is back as is De Niro and his slow burn. He turns his face into a knot of disgust that never loosens. This is aimed at those in the audience who may not have been alive when De Niro was creating a string of masterpieces with Scorsese and who may only know the actor from such self-parodying hits as Analyze This. In this film, he continues his decade-long campaign to destroy his legend by sending up the ferocious screen performances he constructed with Scorsese. It would be nice if someone gave him a role as richly funny as the murderous character he played in Jackie Brown.
Unfortunately, the script strays too far from the genuine characters, turning everyone into monstrous exaggerations of their personas. Stiller does his Stiller routine, De Niro makes a downright rude Jack, but Hoffman and Streisand work well together as a life loving couple. However, when Jack becomes suspicious that Gaylord may be the father of the illegitimate 15-year-old son of the Fockers’ long-serving housekeeper, Isabel (Alana Ubach), the families are thrown into bitter chaos.