Dysfunction Junction

A Review of "Meet the Fockers"

One of the most stressful situations for an engaged couple is meeting their future in-laws and trying to make a good impression. However, the angst-o-meter rises even higher when those in-laws meet each other.

The 2000 hit movie “Meet the Parents” captured the first part of that equation with hilarious results. Gaylord “Greg” Focker (Ben Stiller) struggled to connect with his girlfriend’s tightly wound dad Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) but usually wound up with both feet in his mouth. After lots of awkward squirming ? and even some body and property damage, Greg managed to enter Jack’s “circle of trust” and become a part of the family. In the 2004 sequel “Meet the Fockers,” it’s Jack’s turn to squirm. While Stiller has his share of cringe-inducing moments, it’s De Niro who’s the real fish-out-of-water in this group.

The story hinges on Greg, his fiance Pam (Teri Polo), Jack, his wife Dina (Blythe Danner), their grandson Little Jack and beloved cat Mr. Jinx visiting Greg’s parents in Florida. Greg’s parents, of course, couldn’t be more different from his future in-laws. Jack’s primary foil is Greg’s touchy-feely, kung-fu-dancing, 60’s radical dad, Bernie Focker, played with unadulterated glee by Dustin Hoffman. Barbara Streisand plays Bernie’s wife Roz, a sex therapist who teaches senior citizens how to bring intimacy back into their marriage without breaking a hip.

Despite Greg’s pleading to tone down their personalities, Bernie and Roz do their best to “Fockerize” the Byrnes clan. For instance, Jack believes that when his baby grandson cries, he should be left alone so he can learn to “self soothe.” The Focker approach of hugging and coddling is more popular with Little Jack though. Roz also has some success giving advice to Dina who yearns for a closer relationship with her husband. But Jack remains steadfast in his dislike of Greg’s family. He’s convinced that these are flaky Fockers and doesn’t want anything to do with them.

The movie’s dialogue and situations, which range from baby sign language to the Fockers’ celebration of Greg’s childhood mediocrity, are often laugh-out-loud funny. Also, the characters benefit from being well-written and brought to life by charismatic performances. Dustin Hoffman in particular outshines everybody else though Robert DeNiro explaining his “Mannary Gland” may be my favorite moment in the movie (you have to see it for yourself).

At times, the humor veers into raunchiness to the point where occasionally a joke is just vulgar, not funny (suffice it to say that you might not want to bring your kids to the Fockers). That said, this Fockers sequel measures up every bit to the original.