Meet the Fockers (10/10)

by Tony Medley

A couple of weeks ago I had a decision to make. The screenings for two movies, Lemony Snicket, and Fockers were on the same day and time. So I polled my readers and Lemony won by 2-1. That’s where I went. Despite a terrific trailer, I was disappointed. Last night I finally saw Fockers and discovered my error.

This is an ensemble cast of Robert DeNiro (who also produced), Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, and Blythe Danner, working at its best. With a script credited to John Hamburg and Jim Herzfeld, director Jay Roach exceeds himself. This is much funnier than Roach’s Meet the Parents (2000), which was funny. This, on the other hand, is hilarious. It does what few comedies achieve, literally giving me a laugh a minute, sometimes good, deep belly laughs.

Greg Focker (Stiller) is engaged to Deborah Byrne (Teri Polo) and they are going on a trip with Deborah’s parents, Jack (DeNiro) and Dina (Blythe Danner) to meet Greg’s parents, Hoffman and Streisand. Obviously the parents are no mix and that’s where the fun comes. There’s a baby, Deborah’s nephew, who probably has the best lines, but you have to see it to appreciate it.

DeNiro and Stiller carry the movie. DeNiro is an uptight ex-CIA agent who always has the same determined expression on his face, which made me laugh every time he was onscreen. Stiller is becoming a master of the puzzled expression, which he generally has and which he pulls off very well.

The one criticism I have of the film is a serious one. Deborah says she’s pregnant. Even though they aren’t married, Dina, Hoffman and Streisand are thrilled. The only problem presented to them as a result of the unplanned pregnancy is that Deborah is afraid to tell her father. The fact that the baby has been conceived out of wedlock doesn’t bother anybody. This is a plot device that many will find morally offensive, as did I. Surely they could have come up with something that was not as morally repugnant to people of traditional values. Out of wedlock pregnancies are a huge problem in our society. Hollywood is remiss when it either glorifies them, or accepts the conduct as normal. The MPAA gave the film a PG-13 rating. I would have given it an R because of this.

Finally, another good part of this movie is that it allowed Owen Wilson to make an appearance in an entertaining movie. He’s not particularly funny here but he might have felt uncomfortable working with good material, since it is an opportunity that has rarely presented itself to him.

At 108 minutes, this is pretty long for a comedy, but I enjoyed them all, despite the offensive plot device.

January 2, 2005

The End