Review: “Meet the Fockers”

You’ve got to hand it to Jay Roach, the man works the same formula over and over and his movies have all become mega-earners. Roach is the director behind all three “Austin Powers” movies and now both “Meet” movies and it’s interesting to see some consistency in all five of these films.

If they find a joke that works, each film runs it into the ground not only in the movie it originated in, but in every sequel too. There’s a lot of groan inducing moments, big name stars and some big laughs of both the physical slapstick and awkward dialogue nature. None of these are groundbreaking or particularly inventive comedies but they are entertaining (at least the first time anyway).

Like “Austin” as well, those who loved the first “Meet” movie will probably not think much of this sequel, whereas those who weren’t fans of the first will much prefer the second. As much as I enjoyed “Meet the Parents” the first time it quickly grew ingratiating and has little to no re-watch value. Stiller was good and seeing De Niro act against type (even if “Analyze This” was a lot smarter and funnier) was enjoyable but both since have just done the same sort of roles over and over again to the point that their schtick is tired.

“Fockers” on first appearance is even more enjoyable (especially if you don’t re-watch ‘Parents’), but one can also see its re-watch value will ‘wear out’ much quicker than the first film. A lot of that is due to the script. Whereas the jokes almost flowed naturally and circled around Stiller’s bad luck more than anything else in the first movie, the jokes in this have less bite and are much more sitcom in style.

That can all be fine and good, but with such a stellar cast it’s a shame that it feels like quite a misuse of talent. A few jokes are funny but worn right through (mostly to do with the baby), others like the illegitimate son subplot never really click. The best laughs relate to Greg’s awkwardness around his own parents and their interaction with De Niro.

The jokes do come thicker and faster this time and whilst not as memorable, they do provide the laughs mostly due to the stellar cast and Roach’s sure hand with pacing and gags. Stiller does his usual straight guy at the mercy of nature and others routine, whilst Danner and Polo vanish into the background, leaving most of weight on the ample shoulders of the remaining trio.

As much as De Niro is good, Hoffman is the one who steals this movie. As the utterly relaxed and open father Focker he has the best lines and situations such as a touch football game gone wrong and a 60’s style protest of De Niro’s actions. Streisand in her first role in nearly a decade has fun and handles the sweet but somewhat pushy mother just right. There’s also a great cameo by Owen Wilson towards the film’s end.

It’s disappointing really that the writers propel this along on limp jokes rather than convincing story situations. Things should’ve been a lot wackier and more inventive considering those involved. Nevertheless it still delivers the requisite chortles and entertainment value that many are expecting and is certainly a lot better ‘comedy’ than most films using that label this past year.