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Meet the Fockers (2004)

  Directed by: Jay Roach
Written by: Mary Ruth Clarke, Greg Glienna, John Hamburg, Jim Herzfeld, Marc Hyman
Starring: Blythe Danner, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Teri Polo, Ben Stiller, Barbra Streisand
Links: Meet the Fockers on the IMDb, Buy on DVD, Buy the Soundtrack
Genre: Comedy

This movie gets: 5.00 (1 rating)
nofreelist.com Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

"Fockin' shite" - a review by andy-j

Meet the Fockers is not the sort of thing that I'd go out of my way to watch. After recent misses such as Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004), American Wedding (2003), Zoolander (2001) and Shrek 2 (2004), this type of comedy just isn't my thing. Add this to the fact that I haven't seen Meet the Parents (2000), and Meet the Fockers isn't on my must-see short-list. Still, I'll give it a go. Why not? Well, I can think of a dozen reasons right now, but, as they say hindsight is 20/20.

Briefly, the story goes like this: Pam (Teri Polo) and Greg / Gaylord (Ben Stiller) are about to be married, and it is time for Pam's strict, over-protective and uptight father, Jack (Robert De Niro), and her (completely and utterly unremarkable) mother, Dina (Blythe Danner), to meet Greg's relaxed, colourful, deeply-in-touch-with-themselves parents, Bernie (Dustin Hoffman) and Roz (Barbra Streisand). And of course, the result is a bit of a culture clash for all involved. Gaylord is desperate for everything to run smoothly, and almost bursts a left ventricle stressing out, trying to stop his parents from getting him in Jack's bad books, and stopping Jack from learning that Pam has conceived out of wedlock.

I didn't find Meet the Fockers to be funny. There were a few points where I cracked a smile, sure. But, being primarily a comedy, Meet the Fockers should be making me laugh consistently.. or at least once. At times, this movie is downright confusing - there are truly lines in there that are so weak, you're not sure whether they are meant as jokes. I mean.. they're delivered as if they were a joke. They've even inserted a polite pause in there to allow the audience to laugh. But there's just truly and honestly nothing that anyone could find even remotely funny in there. Here's an example:

Dina: I didn't say we weren't intimate, there are special occasions. Anniversaries and... well, on our anniversary.
Roz: Oy, neesh geete!
Dina: What?
Roz: Not good!

Hahah classic! She said something in another language that sounded vaguely similar to the English translation!!! Along with this, are also given plenty of regurgitated 'laughs' in the calibre of Ben-Stiller-drinking-breast-milk jokes, little-dog-humping-anything-that-moves jokes, fake-titties jokes, some dog-chasing-cat jokes, lots of baby jokes, etc. Oh, and plenty of jokes about the name Gaylord. And about the name Focker.

It would help if, like the American Pie (1999) movies, the characters in Meet the Fockers were outrageous. But really, they're not. They're not outrageous at all. Sure, Bernie and Roz Focker are a little nutso, but in a completely loving and, in my opinion, healthy, way. The movie attempts to play up the differences between the Fockers and the Byrnes, but these opportunities are completely and utterly wasted because the Fockers aren't eccentric enough and Jack Byrnes doesn't react enough. The Chinese restaurant scene in Waiting for Guffman (1996) goes for the same angle and only manages to be about infinity times funnier. The whole premise feels tame, watered-down, dumbed down, dull. The funniest character is an infant, and he's funny because he's adorable, he knows sign-language, and he makes cutesy noises.

So, with this distinct absence of anything amusing, the movie mostly drags along. It relies far too heavily on jokes and forgets all about actually moving the story along (which would be fine if the jokes were funny or even entertaining). The majority of the film goes around in circles, setting up the same situation over and over, with virtually the same result every time. I've said it before and I'll say it again. It's not jokes about babies gluing themselves to bottles of rum that makes for good comedy. It's about entertaining, well-defined characters doing and saying funny things. Jokes are nothing if they're not delivered in a suitable context, and a huge part of that context is the person delivering them. We don't have that here. Ben Stiller's character, for example, completely sucks. When the funniest and most interesting thing about a character is their name, which is not even funny, and is, in fact a joke recycled from the prequel, then that character is pretty much doomed to never make me laugh.

Anyway, what's good about Meet the Fockers? A few things, actually. The characters aren't so much funny as they are well-acted and even somewhat interesting. Dustin Hoffman is great. He has fun with his role, and is entertaining, even if he doesn't actually get to be funny. Barbra Streisand.. I've never had any reason to be a fan. She turned me around here, though. She was natural, relaxed, totally believable and had a great onscreen chemistry with Hoffman. Robert De Niro fleshes out his character as much as he is able, painting him as insecure, uptight and emotionally crippled. I wish it had gone a bit further, but this is (supposedly) a comedy, and this isn't its primary focus. The other thing I liked was that towards the end, the story started to become a little more involving as Jack started to realise what a tool he was. Amazing what a bit of story can do for a movie.

Anyway, you've probably guessed that I'm not a fan. The good bits raised this movie's score up slightly, but it's not one that I'll be rushing back to. I can appreciate that there are plenty of people out there who enjoyed three kinds of hell out of Meet the Fockers. My dad is one of them. My sister was partial to it as well. But I was pretty much unimpressed. Oh well.

One last thing. What's with the character of Dina Byrnes? She may have well have been written out of the movie completely. I barely even noticed her. In fact, I bet Blythe Danner didn't turn up on set for a few days, and everyone was going to each other "maybe it's just me, but I have this nagging feeling that something is missing" at the end of the first day. And then eventually some guy says "FUCK! WE FORGOT ABOUT BLYTHE DANNER!" but then the assistant camera grip guy goes "to hell with that shit, they're serving lunch!". And with that, they forgot about her for another 2 weeks. Which was actually ok, because poor befuddled Blythe Danner had meanwhile stumbled across a travelling circus, and, thinking it was the Meet the Fockers set, mistook a lion's mouth for her caravan. So she climbed in and got a nasty surprise. That's right... no bar fridge.

andy-j gives this movie 5 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 11 Jan 2006

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