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Don't meet the Fockers!

Arthur J Pais in New York | December 24, 2004 13:42 IST

A still from Meet The FockersIf you are near a theatre and have about two hours to kill, Meet the Fockers could provide you with plenty of silly fun. But if you make a special effort to see the comedy, you may not have that much fun.

And you may wonder why the film doesn't have half the charm of its predecessor, Meet The Parents, a huge hit four years ago. Still, one suspects the new comedy will be one of those movies that many critics dismiss as banal and cheap but audiences will warmly embrace. But one doubts if it would come near the $320 million that the first film grossed worldwide.

Adding Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand as Ben Stiller's parents to the new film does produce some fun, even though one suspects the veteran artists have merely coasted through the film. Their scenes with Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner are far funnier than the rest of the film.

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Jay Roach, who also directed the first film, is capable of making sillier and better comedies like the Austin Powers movies. But this time, he seems to have taken things easy. Otherwise, he could have demanded a more inventive and funnier script.

Greg Focker (Stiller) is terrified about the first meeting between his fiancé's control-freak father Jack Byrnes (De Niro) and his parents. Jack and his wife Dina (Danner) arrive at the Fockers' home in Florida.

Greg had told the Byrneses that his father was a lawyer and mother, a doctor. But the visitors discover that Greg's parents are still carrying some of the hippie culture from the 1960s. They are far from the rich Jewish couples enjoying their wealth and status in sunny Florida towns.

Bernie (Hoffman) is a former legal-aid lawyer who is still dismayed with big, money-grabbing society. Roz (Streisand) is a sex therapist for senior citizens. You can expect what will come next. But before the hippie couple and former CIA agent clash, there are quite a few things to do with sex that create the film's delightful tension.

A still from Meet The FockersAt dinner, Roz and Bernie recall how glad they are that Greg lost his virginity before he was 20 and then continue to offer details that uptight Jack won't appreciate. Roz also would like to know if Byrneses have any sexual problems. She is only too eager to fix them.

The encounters between the parents lead to several funny scenes. Roz's full-body massage of Jack, much to his wife Dina's delight, is one of them, and even better is the scene when Fockers trash the CIA. Of course, they don't know that Jack worked for the CIA.

But the encounters loses some of its charm when Bernie and Roz don't seem to know when to stop their public display of love (and lust) for each other.

The interaction between the four older actors is the best part. But a subplot involving Jack's efforts to discipline his infant grandson Little Jack (twins Spencer and Bradley Pikren) derails the movie, except for a funny moment when the baby starts speaking.

A still from Meet The Fockers

Hoffman and Streisand -- making her first film appearance eight years after the ill-fated The Mirror Has Two Faces that she also directed -- add vigour and enthusiasm to the film.

But the rest of the cast including De Niro -- who is also a co-producer of the series -- are routine. In the first film, there was delightful tension between Stiller and De Niro. But very little of that is found here. Fans may appreciate De Niro's deadpan reactions but even in a silly comedy like this, one feels he could have done better. Nobody doubts that he is a great actor but we also know he is easy prey to hamming.

Teri Polo, who plays the fiancée, has little to do as in the previous movie. But Owen Wilson, who makes a brief appearance, has perhaps the best comic moments.

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