4.03.2005

Meet the Fockers

If a joke is timed just right, delivered with superb rhetoric, and repeated in well-paced intervals, it becomes funny again. The philosophy of a sequel depends on it. Fortunately, when you “Meet the Fockers” this time around it’s almost as funny as when you “Meet the Parents” (2000).

There is only one requirement that needs to be met before one can fully enjoy this second serving: a clean pallet. One must have a vague memory, if any recollection at all, of the original. It’s imperative that any left over tastes, whether sweet or acrid, are eliminated. It’s the only way to guarantee a ‘Focking’ good time because the copy is never as good as the original.

A clean pallet also means you should leave your brains behind, too. This film is immature comedy full of potty jokes and embarrassing sex humor. Credited writers John Hamburg and Jim Herzfeld took it to the limits with foreskin flying into fondue, a strap on mammary, and a dog humping everyone and everything. The jokes are prevalent and predictable, and the laughs are almost non-existent and contrived.

“Fockers” is a drawn out comedy sketch where the uptight Byrnes meet the new-age Fockers, and is purely situational. When you see whimsical Bernie Focker (Dustin Hoffman) hug Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) or Roz Focker (Barbara Streisand) whisper ways to improve sex life into Dina Byrnes’ (Blythe Danner) ear, you can see why it’s supposed to be funny. Unfortunately, hearing you laugh will be harder to see.

A lot of the humor depends on a toddler played by twins Bradley and Spencer Pickren. At first it’s funny to watch a baby sign offensive jokes and say his first curse word, but repeated exposure makes one think what kind of parents subject their kids to roles like this, and is there any long-term damage?

The jokes may be poorly executed, but the Fockers are imaginative characters. Streisand is wonderfully cast as the sex therapist, and Dustin Hoffman is always good in a light-hearted role. It’s no surprise that this is just another one of Ben Stiller’s comedies where he’s subjected to embarrassment and folly, but it’s not as enjoyable as “Zoolander” (2001) or “There’s Something About Mary” (1998).

The basis of this story is easy to relate. Everyone clenches their teeth a little when your parents meet their parents, and maybe a few exaggerations are made to make the family union more promising. In this case, a retired lawyer now stay-at-home dad becomes a still successful lawyer and the sex therapist mom is a doctor. Lies are never kept covered, but it’s all for the “circle of trust” and linking the chain.

One of Bernie Focker’s house rules should be used: “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down”. “Meet the Fockers” is number one at the box office grossing around $46.1 million, and most definitely yellow.

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