Meet the Fockers is the sequel to the 2000 hit Meet the Parents, in which Ben Stiller takes his new inlaws to meet his own parents, played by Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand. Gary Couzens reviews a film which is intermittently funny but overlong.
Meet the Fockers was released in the UK and Ireland on 28 January.
Back in 2000, Meet the Parents was a sizeable hit. Just to recap, Gaylord Focker (Ben Stiller), a male nurse who calls himself Greg for reasons most people could guess, met and fell in love with Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo). But first he had to win over Pam’s parents, especially her ex-CIA father Jack (Robert De Niro), and spent a disastrous weekend trying to do just that. Now, in the sequel, Greg takes his inlaws-to-be to Miami to meet his own parents, Bernie (Dustin Hoffman) and Roz (Barbra Streisand). But not before a few disasters intervene.
As Meet the Parents was so popular, this sequel operates on the principle of “the same but different”. The same director (Jay Roach, whose other franchise was the Austin Powers films) and the same principal cast have been reassembled. The two key additions are Hoffman and Streisand. Much of the film’s humour comes from squaring off the touchy-feely Bernie against the tight-assed Jack. It’s not a stretch to say that Hoffman steals this film all the time he’s on screen. Meanwhile, Streisand, as Greg’s sex therapist mother, looks more relaxed on screen after eight years away, and generates quite a few laughs of her own. Owen Wilson, who played a large role in the original, only appears briefly at the end. Once again, Blythe Danner and Teri Polo are more or less sidelined.
Meet the Fockers is an uneven film, but then so was Meet the Parents. Some of the jokes are very funny, others are simply crude. You can bet that every permutation of Greg’s family name will be tried out, even those which were first time round. (It’s not that much of a novelty either: British comics were making Farquhar jokes back in the fifties.) You also have to wonder how strange the concept of male nurses is to this film’s intended audience.
There are laughs to be had in this film, but also a distinct whiff of diminishing returns. A third film may well be a sequel too far. I have a rule of thumb which says that mainstream comedies are overlong by the number of minutes they exceed ninety. There are exceptions of course, but at 108 minutes Meet the Parents wasn’t one of them. And at 115, Meet the Fockers certainly isn’t.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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