Movie Review: 'Meet the Fockers'
by Rich Brooks
4 June 2005
This jewish production with the sexually suggestive title is a sequel to "Meet the Parents," another comedy starring Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro which appeared several years ago. It was a typical in-law comedy featuring the "nice jewish boy" Stiller facing the stern and uptight WASPy DeNiro as his future father-in-law. We now get to meet Stiller's parents, the Fockers, an obviously jewish couple played by two quintessential jews, Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand. Frankly, I didn't think this sequel was as funny as the original or perhaps I was expecting too much from the way the movie has been hyped. I probably wouldn't have bothered seeing it if not for the socially conservative rabbi who wrote a highly critical column essentially saying the film was "not good for jews." Yes, Streisand and Hoffman are stereotypical jews of the 1960s war-protester, hippy variety, but I expected much more specifically jewish humor than we get here. In fact, I expected much more humor period, but this is comedy seriously short on laughs.
There is a baby in this film, but the cutesy scenes do little to further the plot other than to show DeNiro's character as a doting grandfather. There is also the reappearance of Jinx the Cat, who played a prominent role in the original and he is now joined by Moses, a little rat of a dog that is always humping anything that moves. After the first time, it ceases to be funny. Greg (Gaylord) Focker has still not married his shiksa fiancé Pam Byrnes, unimpressively played by Teri Polo, and issues arise which put the impending wedding at risk. The bumbling Stiller still has trouble pleasing ex-CIA man Jack Byrnes, especially when the old man suspects that he fathered a child by the Latino maid some 15 years ago. There is quite a bit of sexual innuendo, but it is tame enough to avoid an R rating. Streisand's character, Roz Focker, works as a sex therapist - a fact which embarrasses her son, who tries to cover it up.
I suppose the comedic premise of the movie is a clash in culture between the Aryan Byrnes family and the liberal jewish Fockers. I personally would have liked to see the Fockers played as both more obnoxious and more obviously jewish than they are in this movie, but we do get one mildly funny foreskin joke. (Roz has kept Greg's foreskin in his scrapbook, and somehow it ends up in the fondue pot at dinner; this sequel is, however, mercifully short overall on sight gags.) The Fockers do represent a typically jewish preoccupation with "therapy" as well as an indulgent "self-esteem" parenting philosophy. Greg's father awarded him trophies for finishing in ninth or tenth place when he was in school, a practice which doesn't sit well with the competitive-minded Jack Byrnes. Overall, however, there is lacking a sharp tension between the two families that one would expect given the premise of this film.
All in all, there is not much more I can say about "Meet the Fockers." Needless to say, it has a happy ending, but was highly disappointing given the all-star cast. Outside of DeNiro, who has created a memorable character, the other actors just seemed to be walking through their parts. I'm not really sure what the rabbi was upset about, because the movie was hardly anti-Semitic in any sense of the word. I wish it had been, so I could have had a few laughs.
Mr. Brooks edits WhiteAlert.com.