In the intermittently funny but largely flatulent Meet the Fockers, Greg Focker (Ben Stiller)—ready to marry Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo) after having obtained permission from her insanely overprotective C.I.A. dad Jack (Robert De Niro) in Meet the Parents—takes the Byrnes clan to Florida to meet his parents Roz (Barbra Streisand) and Bernie (Dustin Hoffman). It’s a Jews vs. Gentiles setup in which Roz, a sex therapist for the elderly, and Bernie, a hugs-and-kisses-crazy stay-at-home dad, make the prudish, straight-laced Jack feel uncomfortable at every turn by flaunting their free-love lifestyle. Playing up the socio-religious rifts of the first film (in which the wimpy Greg stumbled and bumbled under the intense scrutiny of his would-be goy father-in-law), Jay Roach’s sequel reflects (intentionally or not) the country’s current political schisms, with the counterculture, “fight the power” Fockers pitted against the military-loving and surveillance-happy Byrneses. Yet because its goal is to provide a steady stream of slapstick antics rather than a penetrating portrait of 2004 America, the film primarily coasts along like the amiable but empty farce it aspires to be. Another one of Ben Stiller’s comedies of awkwardness and anxiety, Meet the Fockers has its moments, most of which come courtesy of the irrepressibly ridiculous Hoffman, whose sensitive Bernie Focker is a good-natured humanist not afraid to both express his mushy emotions and violently protect his brood. All too often, though, the film strives for outrageousness and winds up being just plain awful, such as a recurring joke about De Niro wearing a prosthetic breast apparatus to feed his grandson, the sight of a precocious baby using pre-verbal sign language to express desire for a Latino housekeeper’s silicon bosoms, and Streisand—garishly channeling Mike Myers’s Yiddish-spouting “Coffee Talk” alter ego Linda Richman—riding a shirtless De Niro during a sensual back massage. In self-parody mode for the umpteenth time, De Niro mugs for the camera with a series of overblown grimaces and faux-menacing glares, but by and large, all the once-great actor accomplishes is accentuating the needlessness of this tired, redundant focker of a film.
- Jay Roach
- John Hamburg, James Herzfeld
- Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, Owen Wilson, Spencer Pickren, Bradley Pickren, Alanna Ubach
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