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Meet the Fockers

The sequel Meet the Fockers is pretty much what you'd expect--mindless fluff with maybe a little less calamity than its predecessor, but a lot more schmaltz. Oy vey!


OK, so we've met the Parents: Uptight ex-CIA operative Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro), his preppy wife Dina (Blythe Danner) and their sweet daughter Pam (Teri Polo), who's marrying the adorable if slightly anxious male nurse Greg, aka Gaylord, Focker (Ben Stiller). Now it's time to Meet the Fockers, Greg's kooky but lovable parents, who soon threaten Greg's standing in Jack's coveted ''circle of trust.'' In the inevitable meeting of the in-laws, Jack is lead to believe Greg's dad, the effervescent Bernie (Dustin Hoffman), is a lawyer but finds out he became a stay-at-home dad to raise little Gaylord. Greg's mom, the outspoken Roz (Barbra Streisand), a ''doctor,'' is really a sex therapist for the elderly. Big, big problem. There's also incidents involving the Fockers' dog and the Byrneses' cat, and Jack's toddler grandson, some glue and a bottle of rum. Don't ask. At some point, Greg and Pam have just got to cut the umbilical cord and move on.


One thing you can say about the Fockers' cast--they sure do look like they're having fun. Stiller is back, doing the whole neurotic, accident-prone thing he does so well. There's one meltdown scene in which he bears his soul while under the influence of Sodium Pentathol (courtesy of Jack, of course). De Niro is once again playing the ''heavy,'' as the suspicious elder Byrnes--and is still pretty good at making you laugh. On the other hand, the wasted Danner and Polo stand around in the background looking appropriately appalled or sympathetic, depending on the moment. Hoffman and Streisand, however, are the true standouts. They liven up the proceedings just by the sheer nature of their spirited characters. For the first time in awhile, Hoffman's tendency to overact works as the bubbly Bernie, while the delightful Streisand, who's taken a break from acting for the past eight years, gets to tap into her zany yet grounded What's Up, Doc? persona we remember so well. Good times.


Meet the Parents director Jay Roach has a tough act to follow with Meet the Fockers. The original did surprisingly well at the box office, probably because audiences got a kick out of seeing funny guy Ben Stiller go head to head with the Goodfella himself, De Niro. But somehow the mishaps and miscommunications that made Parents so wacky seems to have been replaced with feel-good-about-your-family mush in Fockers. Jack, for example, is mostly up to his ''let's catch Greg in the act'' high jinks--until he sees the errors of his ways and gets in touch with his feelings. Huh? Granted, the moments of inspired hilarity are still entertaining, but the extra sentimentality doesn't really work as well, given what the younger fans of Parents have come to expect.

Bottom Line

Ben Stiller's younger fans may miss some of the Parents shenanigans, but Meet the Fockers still provides a requisite amount of chuckles without taxing your brain too much.