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Meet the Fockers
Review written by: Alex Sandell

Mediocre comedies are the hardest films for a critic to review.  When it comes to Hollywood comedy, one generally expects -- and even accepts - mediocrity.  Reviews come easy for those rare comedic gems that have you chuckling over them for weeks.  They come easier yet for insipid junk that couldn't yank a chuckle out of a laughing hyena on Nitrous Oxide (see my Fat Albert review, to be posted Dec. 25th).  But it's those comedies, such as the one I'm currently working my way into reviewing, that lie somewhere right in the middle, that are nearly impossible to critique. 

C'mon, Fockers -- I expected more (or less) from you!  You could have went the way of The Whole Ten Yards and made my job a bit easier.  But totally sucking wasn't good enough.  You actually had to do things such as write a passable, if highly predictable, script, hire a talented ensemble cast and occasionally elicit a laugh from this jaded critic.  And you did it with fart jokes, breast jokes, sex jokes and jokes about dogs humping legs.  Do you know what it does to a person's critic credentials, when they attend a screening of your film and other critics hear them laughing over a dog dry-humping a rag doll?  I haven't embarrassed myself this badly since giving a "9" to American Pie 2.      

Meet the Fockers begins with Gaylord Focker (Ben Stiller) delivering his first child.  No doctors are available, so Nurse Focker is forced to perform the delivery himself (oddly, no other nurses are around, either).  When he successfully delivers the child, the father begins insisting that he name his baby after Gaylord.  Gaylord keeps saying that that isn't necessary, but the proud parent says it's a family tradition.  Not taking no for an answer, the father straightens up Gaylord's scrubs and sees his nametag.  Family tradition is ended.  And so goes the movie.  Never in my life have I heard this many "Fock" jokes.   

We find out that it's two years after the events of Meet the Parents.  Gaylord is comfortably nestled in Jack Byrnes' (Robert De Niro) family circle of trust.  He's finally planning on marrying his fiancée, Pam (Teri Polo -- saved from being placed in the "where are they now" files, thanks to this sequel).  The only problem?  Gaylord has somehow managed to prevent the Brynes from meeting the Fockers.  The nervous son knows how Jack can be and he knows just how his parents are.  His father, Bernie Focker (Dustin Hoffman) is an old-fashioned Liberal and stay at home dad.  His mother, Roz Focker (Barbra Streisand) is a sex therapist and, to top that off, Barbra Streisand.  (That joke is going to go over so many heads.)

The families are finally going to meet.  Right off the bat, things don't go as planned (surprise!).  Instead of flying, the group is driving Jack's gigantic militaristic motorhome looking thing to Florida.  Jack is obsessed with Little Jack, an infant who comes along for the ride.  The two Jacks communicate through baby sign-language.  The film would have been better without the kid's inclusion (diaper jokes are rapidly growing stale), but the bit where the child learns his first word is a doozy (can people still legally use the word "doozy" in the 21st century?).  The family arrives half a day early to find Gaylord's father doing some weird karate looking stuff on the front lawn and nearly busts Gaylord's mother teaching the elderly how to have great sex, right up to the grave.  The Byrnes and the Fockers are as compatible as oil and water and comedy hijinks ensue. 

That's it.  An unexpected pregnancy, a maid that ended Gaylord's virginity at 19 and a speech given under the influence of truth serum are thrown into the mix, to keep things interesting, but the plot is really nothing more than two incompatible families forced to live under one roof for a weekend.  If you expected anything more going in, you deserve to be as miserable as I'm sure you were, while watching this film.  If you went in looking for a couple of laughs and a slight semblance of a story, you'll more than likely leave with a smile on your face.  The audience I was with actually cheered when the film ended and stayed through the credits to watch the "hidden camera" jokes.  Stranger things have happened (The Passion of the Christ making nearly 400 million dollars, for example).

The movie has some long stretches without many jokes, or where the jokes fall flat, but it's almost always saved by the amazing ensemble cast.  De Niro and Hoffman make the movie.  The look De Niro's character, former agent for the CIA, gives when Hoffman's character asks him to name one good thing the "CLIA" has done is priceless.  "The CLIA?" asks Jack Byrnes.  "The Central Lack of Intelligence Agency," responds Bernie Focker, with a laugh.  I don't think De Niro's ever looked closer to kicking somebody's ass, on film -- and that's saying something.  Barbra Streisand and Blythe Danner (reprising her role as Jack's wife, Dina) are fabulous together.  Dina's growing openness about her sex life leads to some funny Three's Company type moments.  The entire film is nothing more than a series of cheap gags, but the cast's enthusiasm is so infectious, you hardly notice. 

I know that Meet the Fockers probably doesn't deserve a recommendation, but, in the spirit of Christmas, I'm going to give it one.  I was at least somewhat entertained throughout, I laughed aloud and I didn't feel as though I killed more brain cells watching it than I would have if I chose to drink a gallon or two of ale at the local pub, instead (note to self:  put on my "to do" list for this evening).  The exceptional cast turned the garden-variety script they were given into a movie that should please crowds throughout the holiday season.           

Agree? Disagree? Have questions?  Comments?  Email this critic at alex@juicycerebellum.com

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Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Finding Neverland
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On a scale of 1-10?

6

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COMING SOON - Reviews of The Aviator, The Phantom of the Opera and, just because it's been requested more than ANY other movie yet to be reviewed on this site, Hellboy (so who says I don't listen to my readers?)!

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