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HomeNewsArchives'The Fockers': Some of the Laughs, Some of the Time?

'The Fockers': Some of the Laughs, Some of the Time?

Jan. 5, 2005 – Is it possible to have major stars in what's billed as a top-flight comedy and not get all the laughs you came for? Well, maybe.
"Meet the Fockers" is the story of one set of parents – the Byrnes – meeting the set of parents – the Fockers – who spawned the man to whom their daughter is betrothed. If you saw "Meet the Parents" in 2000, you have met the son in question – male nurse Greg Focker (Ben Stiller), and his parents, ex-CIA man Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) and his wife Dina Byrnes (Blythe Danner).
Greg Focker is still the bumbling character he was when first introduced in 2000's "Meet the Parents," which several critics agree was the better movie. At that first meeting Greg got off on the wrong foot (paw?) with the Byrnes' cat, who took an instant hatred to him, and he didn't endear himself to the Byrnes, either. Aside from the cat, Greg manages to set the Byrnes' house on fire.
Well, four years later, Greg is still engaged to Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo), and the time has come – come and gone, actually – to meet the other set of parents. Herein we have our tale.
It seems Greg's parents – Roz Focker (Barbara Streisand) and Bernie Focker (Dustin Hoffman) – are everything the Byrnes are not, and delighted with that.
The Byrnes drive down to Florida to Focker Isle where the elder Fockers live. The name is reminiscent of college stag parties, but Roger Ebert says when the MPAA, Motion Picture Association of America, objected to it, the filmmakers produced several real-life folk who said they were Fockers, and proud of it.
Now, having cleared up this delicate issue, the Fockers turn out to be a nightmare to the conservative and humorless Byrnes. As one might suspect, Roz is a successful sex therapist who has authored books such as "Meet Your Orgasm." Bernie used to be a lawyer, but he quit to raise Greg, and never bothered to go back to work.
Upon meeting the Byrneses, the first words out of Bernie's mouth are ''Can you believe I fathered this beautiful son with one testicle?" The Fockers are so free-wheeling, it makes one wonder how they raised somebody so uptight as Greg, male nurse.
Roger Ebert says there are numerous missed chances for comedy, for instance, a massage Roz gives to Jack Byrnes, where he doesn't want to remove his shirt. Ebert says, "The movie is pleasant enough, but never quite reaches critical mass as a comedy."
Ty Burr, at the Boston Globe, isn't that forgiving. He says, "We've been looking forward to this, right? Casting as Greg's parents the king and queen of neurotic '60s-movie gawgeousness, Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand, how could it miss? …. It did and it does," he says, calling it "a resolutely average sequel."
Hoffman, grinning like a big baby, is at the top of his game," Burr says, "but De Niro (who produced both films) pulls his head into his neck, pastes on an exaggerated grimace and coasts on the fumes of 'Parents.' Danner is stuck in a thankless secondary role (the same goes for Polo), Stiller has played the brow-furrowing boob in one too many movies, and Streisand — well, it's almost criminal how underused she is here. Roz is a warm, oversexed noodge, and that's it, that's the joke."
And more's the pity for Streisand's first movie appearance in eight years.
The movie was directed by Jay Roach and written by Jim Herzfeld and John Hamburg. It runs 116 minutes and is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and brief drug references.
It is playing at Market Square East.
Click here for schedule.

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