The time that Gaylord "Greg" Focker (Ben Stiller, in restrained straight man mode) has been dreading has arrived: the meeting between his fiancee's (Teri Polo) parents, Jack (Robert DeNiro, trying to be funny instead of just being funny) and Dina (Blythe Danner) Byrnes, and his parents, sex therapist Roz (Barbara Streisand) and stay-at-home dad, Bernie Focker (Dustin Hoffman). Spending time at the Focker family residence in Florida, Jack tries to keep his family in order in the face of overwhelmingly open-minded parenting.
"Meet the Fockers" (IMDb listing) is a can't win situation for the filmmakers. Here they are, faced with a sequel to an enormously popular hit from three years ago, and that cold wind of audience expectation is blowing in their faces. Sadly, for the audience, director Jay Roach and his screenwriters have gone the way of many sequels: utter, infallible repetition. This leaves "Fockers" in a precarious position. It's stuck somewhere between being absolutely hilarious and one of the worst comedies ever committed to celluloid.
There's a strange insistence found in "Fockers" that merely repeating the same jokes from "Meet the Parents" is enough to entertain for a second time around. Yes, the foibles of Greg trying to impress hardened Jack were fodder for great comedy in the first film. This time out, that rag has been squeezed dry, and seeing Greg in the exact same predicaments elicits eye rolls and yawns, not peals of laughter. Greg comically forced to tell the truth to Jack again? Check. More jokes involving Mr. Jinx, the toilet-flushing cat? You bet. Greg finding himself in entirely overwhelming situations that he can't possibly explain to his future father-in-law? Many times, yet Roach oddly ramps up these sequences in a strange "Fear Factor," gross-out style that takes the fun out of the moment. Is it hilarious to see Greg drink breast milk? Watch as the remnants of his circumcision fly into a fondue pot? See Jack use a synthetic breast to feed his grandson? Or see the Fockers' dog dry hump everything in sight? Not at all. In fact, all this nonsense takes away from the real bliss of the movie: Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand.
As two volcanic Hollywood liberals playing Greg's hippie parents, Streisand and Hoffman are the only reason to see "Fockers," for they steal the film away from the "Parents" troupe. They are quite a pair to behold, playing a couple still deeply in love (with plenty of fire left in the bedroom) in addition to being completely enamored with their son, much to the dismay of Jack and his chilly CIA worldview. Hoffman runs around like a lunatic, spreading joy and hearty laughs with each appearance onscreen. Who knew the mere mention of chimichangas could be so hilarious? On the other side of the Fockers lies Barbara Streisand, who hasn't been this easygoing on camera in more than 30 years. While she isn't handed the juicer gags of the film, she makes a strong impression in "Fockers" just by being cheerful again. I missed that side of her. The Fockers of the title are so good, in fact, that when Roach has to interrupt their screentime to move along that pesky thing called "a plot," his film takes a serious dip in tolerance levels, and one starts to miss the couple in every moment they're not involved.
"Meet the Fockers" is a big, fat audience-pleasing movie that just doesn't have the gas this time around to take its premise all the way to the bank. Roach and his crew are too preoccupied with giving the audience the same stale old jokes instead of mining the comic gold found in the new material.
Filmfodder Grade: C