If the thought of seeing Robert DeNiro strapping on a homemade rubber breast to feed a coddled baby sounds side-splittingly hilarious to you, then "Meet the Fockers" may be worth running out to see in theaters.
But if you're more pained by the idea of watching a formerly great actor embarrass himself in an infantile, desperately uncreative sequel that will do anything for a cheap laugh, just imagine 2000's "Meet the Parents" remade with the comedy sensibilities of a 12-year-old. That way you won't have to sit through Ben Stiller's sixth nearly identical performance this year.
Seemingly tired of his own worn-out schtick, Stiller half-heartedly mugs for the camera in anxious, eyebrow-stitching baby faces as he nervously introduces his retired-hippie parents, Bernie and Roz Focker (Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand), to DeNiro's Jack Byrnes, the intimidating ex-CIA spook who is soon to be his father-in-law. But other than making Stiller's folks embarrassing polar opposites of stiff, serious straight-man DeNiro (Hoffman is full of hugs, Streisand teaches tantric sex to septuagenarians), "Fockers" just recycles plot points from its predecessor (DeNiro interrogates and spies on Stiller throughout) and culls obvious jokes from the uncomfortable circumstances.
Combining road trip gags (Stiller and fiancée Teri Polo travel with DeNiro and wife Blythe Danner in their Kevlar-armored monster RV), toilet humor (Hoffman's pet Pomeranian falls into the mobile-home's blue-water john) and stretching one-off japes into entire subplots (Stiller accidentally teaches a baby to say a bad word), returning director Jay Roach goes to so much trouble setting up his jokes that every punchline in the picture can be spotted on the horizon minutes -- if not whole reels -- ahead of time. The worst of it comes when DeNiro injects Stiller with a "truth serum" that makes him act drunk and spill his guts at an engagement party.
But the primary downfall of "Meet the Fockers" (and yes, the almost-dirty last name is still a running gag) is that all of its ill-at-ease comical circumstances are dependent on the characters being dishonest, secretive ninnies, which makes it hard to care about any of them as they're force-fed trite Sunday School lessons about communication and trust.
If it weren't for Streisand's touch-of-madcap performance that amusingly melds doting Jewish mother caricature with over-the-top open sexuality ("I didn't raise you to be a so-so lover!" she scolds Stiller), it would have been hard to make it all the way through "Meet the Fockers."
Run time: 115 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 22nd December 2004
Box Office USA: $279.2M
Box Office Worldwide: $516.5M
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Production compaines: Everyman Pictures, Universal Pictures, DreamWorks SKG, Tribeca Productions
Contactmusic.com: 0.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 38%
Fresh: 60 Rotten: 97
IMDB: 6.3 / 10
Director: Jay Roach
Starring: Ben Stiller as Gaylord 'Greg' Focker, Teri Polo as Pam Byrnes, Robert De Niro as Jack Byrnes, Dustin Hoffman as Bernie Focker, Barbra Streisand as Rozalin Focker, Blythe Danner as Dina Byrnes, Tim Blake Nelson as Officer LeFlore, Alanna Ubach as Isabel Villalobos, Shelley Berman as Judge Ira, Owen Wilson as Kevin Rawley, Ray Santiago as Jorge Villalobos, Spencer Pickren as Little Jack 'L.J.' Byrnes, Bradley Pickren as Little Jack 'L.J.' Byrnes, Kali Rocha as Flight Attendant, Dorie Barton as Airline Clerk, Jack Plotnick as Rent-a-Car Agent, Wayne Thomas Yorke as Airport Security Guard, Max Hoffman as Woody Focker
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