May 12, 2006 | Comments ()

By Dustin Rowles | Film | May 12, 2006 |


That a joke about the namesake of its lead character, Gaylord Focker — which was intermittently used for amusing shock-value in Meet the Parents — would be referenced at least 24 times in its sequel says about all you need to know about Meet the Fockers: It is an orgy of one-note jokes that outstayed their welcome four years ago in its precursor, only to be dragged back out, repackaged with more Hollywood star power, and re-gifted, like a bad Clay Aiken Christmas CD without all the unintentional humor.

That Meet the Fockers — directed by the master of the one-note joke, Jay Roach (who ground the Austin Powers franchise into a dirt hole) — would be so bad is perhaps not that surprising, but that all this talent would go to waste is simply a cinematic mockery. Meet the Fockers may not represent the first time that two of the greatest actors of any generation — Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro — have shared screen time, but it’s certainly the worst; and that Barbara Streisand would trade in her Hollywood wattage for what amounts to a role where she essentially plays Mrs. Roper with a psychology degree is plain embarrassing. Indeed, the whole Meet the Fockers exercise is empty and tedious, and about as enjoyable as one of the blows to the head that Ben Stiller inevitably seems to suffer in every movie role he has every played.

Meet the Fockers picks up two years after Meet the Parents ended; Gaylord Focker (Ben Stiller) and his fiancee, Pam (Teri Polo), are about to wed, but before they can set a date, Pam’s family, Jack and Dina Byrnes (De Niro and Blythe Danner) must first meet with the Fockers, Bernie (Hoffman) and Roz (Streisand).

The Fockers are the Jewish, Blue-State, free-spirited counters to the uptight Byrnes; Bernie is a stay-at-home dad and Dina is a sex therapist for seniors, a lame plot contrivance seemingly appended for the sole reason of making the audience squirm at the thought of elderly folks throwing out their hips while trying to fuck one another in the back of their Hondas. The Fockers, expectedly, rub Jack like a bad hand job, leaving De Niro with a perpetual forced scowl on his face, as though he’s trying to pass a ham hock through his urethra. Bernie and Dina’s oversexed touchy-feeliness also offers an ideal means for which the screenwriters can disgust us all with Hoffman’s whip-creamed face crammed into the bosom of Streisand.

Fortunately, however, with Hoffman and Streisand hogging up all the screen time, there is barely enough time left this go-around for Gaylord to suffer the indignities of being a Ben Stiller character in another lame, self-abusing movie. Which is not to say that Gaylord doesn’t find a way to embarrass himself; he unknowingly declares to a large audience that he still masturbates to pictures of his fiancee; gets arrested for no reason other than to give Tim Blake Nelson a role in the movie; and manages to teach his nephew his first word, “asshole,” which is almost funny the first time the child says it, but loses some of its comedic value around the 34th time the tot utters the curse.

If you are into puerile humor, though, there is plenty of it in Meet the Fockers, especially if you can find comedy in a Chihuahua dry humping various props, a baby ogling breasts, or a cat flushing a toilet and scampering out of the bathroom with toilet paper affixed to its paw. And De Niro — Hollywood icon and star of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and The Untouchables — is even reduced to wearing a prosthetic breast, a sight gag that if you don’t find funny the first time he straps it on, surely you will the 47th time Jay Roach drags it out.

Meet the Fockers has only one thing going for it, and even that is empty consolation for most of us. But, if you relish the opportunity to see how far the mighty have fallen, Fockers offers it in spades — and that Hoffman, De Niro, and Streisand are playing second fiddle to an actor whose most famous onscreen moment involved a wad of his own semen hanging from his ear is about all you need to know.

Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York.

Meet the Fockers / Dustin Rowles

Film | May 12, 2006 | Comments ()



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