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Meet The Fockers

Focking Funny

The holiday season is often a time to reunite with family and loved ones. But how many of us really look forward to these reunions? Holiday familial gatherings often seem to involve dredging up bad memories, reminiscing about the time Uncle 'Enter Name Here' passed gas during a funeral sermon, and the like.

Studio execs were smart to release Meet The Fockers in the middle of the season that so often forces us to confront the awkwardness of family gatherings. If you aren't interested in spending time with your family, you might consider hanging out with a bunch of Fockers.

Meet The Fockers reassembles the cast of characters from the 2000 hit Meet The Parents. This time around Ben Stiller's Greg (aka-Gaylord) Focker is in the throes of planning a wedding with wife to be, Pam (Teri Polo). Having seemingly won over the paranoid and stern Jack Byrnes (Robert DeNiro), one would think Greg and his bride to be would have nothing but smooth sailing to the altar.

Enter The Fockers. Greg's parents are endearing, albeit exceedingly eccentric. Roz (Barbra Streisand) and Bernie (Dustin Hoffman) Focker are the yin to Jack and Dina (Blythe Danner) Byrne's yang. Roz is a sex therapist for the elderly and Bernie is a capoeira practicing, overly affectionate, non-competitive stay-at-home dad. Bernie is the anti-Jack. Liberal, spiritual, and otherwise unreserved, the Fockers are bound to clash with the more reserved Byrnes.

Admittedly, there's nothing really new in Meet The Fockers. Many of the jokes director Jay Roach employed in Meet The Parents are back with the same flavor. Much of this can likely be attributed to the writing of Jim Herzfeld and John Hamburg (who penned Meet The Parents as well). While many of the jokes are virtually identical to those in the first film, the humor still works. Putting two distinctly dissimilar personalities in an awkward and uncomfortable setting presents countless opportunities for humor and never really grows stale.

What's refreshing about Meet The Parents are the performances of the primary cast. Particularly entertaining was Dustin Hoffman's turn as the free loving Bernie. Hoffman is an excellent actor and has exhibited a flair for playing quirky and idiosyncratic characters (read - I Heart Huckabee's as an existential detective). Much of the humor of the film revolves around Bernie's absurd antics.

Stiller brings his trademark everyman awkwardness to the table. Continuously finding himself caught in uncomfortable situations, Stiller has a gift for amusing audiences with little more than an inflection of his voice or a wayward glance. Equally entertaining is the granite-inflected performance Robert DeNiro brings to Jack Byrnes. DeNiro exhibits the same entertaining excessive paranoia, distrust, and conservatism he displayed in Meet The Parents.

Unfortunately, on the female side Jay Roach fails to give Blythe Danner and Teri Polo much to work with. Danner seems like little more than a stand in. What lines she has are not terribly engaging and there's no real development of Dina as a character. Likewise, Teri Polo's Pam Byrnes has no real distinguishing characteristics and often seems bland. Barbra Streisand does a serviceable job as Roz and is likely the strongest female character, but Streisand is ultimately outshined by the stellar performance of Hoffman.

While Meet The Fockers offers an additional dose of the same humor displayed in Meet The Parents, it does so quite well. Jay Roach has crafted a solid sequel that consistently entertains. That being said, this is a franchise that would be well served to end with this installment as there are few feasible options left for Focker fun. Meet The Grandparents? Meet The Little Focker? Sigh…I'm sure it's already in the works.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5