out of Five
Running time: 122
Enjoyable, frequently funny comedy with inspired comic performances from its cast - a worthy sequel to the original film.
Meet the Parents was a surprise smash hit in 2000, eventually taking around $330 million at the U.S. box office, making a sequel all but inevitable. Amusingly, though its risqué title seems like a given, the press notes state that the studio refused to give it the go-ahead until they found a family that actually had that surname, so we can literally thank the Fockers for Meet the Fockers.
The Focker Genes
In the first film, the humour came from the clash between male nurse Gaylord (or ‘Greg’) Focker (Ben Stiller) and his girlfriend Pamela’s (Teri Polo) insanely overprotective ex-CIA father, Jack Byrnes (Robert DeNiro). In the sequel, Greg and Pamela’s wedding is fast approaching and Greg reluctantly takes Pamela and his future in-laws (Blythe ‘Gwyneth’s mum’ Danner reprises her role as Dina Byrnes) to meet his own parents, Bernie and Roz Focker, played by Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand.
There’s just one problem: Jack has become obsessed with grandchildren and seeing where “the Focker genes” came from, whereas Greg has been a little economical with the truth about his parents. It’s true that his father is a lawyer and his mother a doctor, except that they’re both liberal ex-hippy types and Bernie gave up the law to become a full-time, stay-at-home father, whereas Roz is a sex therapist specialising in senior citizens. So things don’t exactly bode well for Jack’s Circle Of Trust…
Sensibly, director Jay Roach has chosen to make a sequel that actually deepens and improves on the original film, rather than simply rehashing all the same jokes. To that end, there’s hardly any slapstick or gross-out humour in the sequel (there are, admittedly, at least two toilet gags but they’re very mild) and Stiller’s trademarked ‘embarrassment humour’ is much less excruciating than you might expect. This means that, while there’s nothing to quite match the laugh-out-loud heights of, say, the volleyball game in the first film, the humour is character-based and has a genuine warmth behind it.
The casting is, of course, inspired. Hoffman and Streisand throw themselves into their roles with fittingly undisguised glee – it’s hard to imagine the film working as well with anyone else playing their parts. Hoffman, in particular, is a delight – he has an infectious comic energy that seems to light up the rest of the cast.
Stiller, of course, can do this sort of thing in his sleep, but DeNiro is good too – he’s much more successful as a comedic actor here than in Analyze This and That – and his gradual ‘Fockerization’ at the hands of Hoffman and Streisand is a treat to watch.
To sum up, this is an extremely warm-hearted, enjoyable comedy that’s well worth seeing and while it’s short on the belly laughs of the first film, it makes up for it with a steady stream of character-based jokes that will keep you chuckling throughout. In addition, Meet the Fockers has already taken well over £200 million at the U.S. box office, so we should probably expect to Meet The Little Fockers sometime in 2007.