I never understood the appeal of the Meet the Parents franchise. It made no sense to me that the first film could make $330 million worldwide, while the second film racked up over $500 million. I wondered if the chasm between myself and the rest of the world was so wide that I simply couldn’t see what everyone else found so enjoyable about these movies. As I walked into the theater today and noticed marquees for The Fighter and Black Swan and True Grit, movies that — combined — probably won’t make half of what one Fockers movie makes, I felt deliriously out of touch. What am I missing?
Twenty minutes into Little Fockers, my world turned upside down. During a phone conversation between Gaylord Focker (Ben Stiller) and his father-in-law, Jack Byrne (Robert DeNiro), DeNiro said something that would shake my very foundation to the core, that jostled me into instant recognition. He said in a menacing, mafioso sort of way, “I want you to be the God Focker.”
And then it hit me, like a wave in a Roland Emmerich film. God Focker. Focker! It was a play on words! Focker sounds like Fucker. And Fucker is a funny word because “Fucker” refers to someone who engages in sexual intercourse, and these are family comedies that disguise the word just enough that children won’t understand, but parents will laugh. How did I miss this? Focker. Fucker! It’s right there in the title! Little Fockers, as in: Little people who engage in sexual intercourse (or, more colloquially, a stupid despised person that probably engages in sexual intercourse). Layers, people! Layers!
It was a huge epiphany! This is why the Meet the Parents franchise is such a monster hit. The writers are smart enough to sneak in profanity without actually using profanity. And as I began to understand that, two movies worth of Focker jokes came rushing to the surface of my being. Focker! Focker! Yes! OMG! Focker!
But it was more than just Focker, I soon realized. There was also the name of Ben Stiller’s character: Gaylord. As in: Gay. As in, one would likes to fock other men! Gaylord Focker! Of course, that’s hilarious because the idea of one man wanting to engage in sexual intercourse with another man is absurd. And this whole Gaylord Focker thing was a play on that absurdity. Genius. Pure focking genius.
But then, there’s also an extra layer: Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, and Barbara Streisand, who have countless Oscars and Oscar nominations between them, were in on the joke. Dustin Hoffman wasn’t just calling someone else a Focker. He was a Focker! The guy from The Graduate who focked that older woman was, in fact, a Focker himself. It’s so meta. Don’t you see it? Come into my world.
Little Fockers added a whole extra dimension of humor. The God Focker joke, for instance. DeNiro was in The Godfather II. He was, like, making fun of himself. Get it? And later, during the movie, when DeNiro took boner pills and had to have Gaylord Focker (*titter*) give him a shot of adrenaline in his penis, it was like something out of Pulp Fiction. And of course, Robert DeNiro was in Sleepers with Kevin Bacon, who was in A Few Good Men with Demi Moore, who was married to Bruce Willis, who was in Pulp Fiction! See! Layers, people. Unpack them, and what’s inside is comedy focking gold! This is the stuff. Yes!
I understand now! I have seen the light. It doesn’t matter that Little Fockers has very little plot to speak of. Jessica Alba looks great! And it doesn’t matter that there are a few logical inconsistencies, or that Owen Wilson’s hair looked different in the one scene with Dustin Hoffman (whose character was added in after the rest of the movie was shot, because Hoffman wanted to be a part of this film), Who focking cares? It’s the holidays. It’s a time to relax and turn off your brain and appreciate the humor that inheres in the wordplay. Focker sounds like Fucker! It’s brilliant, and I can’t believe I never got that until now. Two movies, dozens of movie posters, countless television adverts: I could’ve been laughing that whole time! Hell, you can mine that joke for at least three more films, and I hope they do. I can’t focking wait! Bring on the Fockers!