Meet The Fockers
Within minutes of Meet The Fockers shedding it's first rays of unholy light upon cinema canvas I was inclined, nay compelled by a burning desire to better understand my fellow man, to ask the most searching question in all of human history; why in the good name of fuck is there a queue half a mile long to see this pap? For those uninitiated (who are apparently few), Fockers is the "much anticipated" sequel to Meet The Parents, a film I have not seen and therefore feel entirely justified in declaring a pile of rancid walrus dung on the basis that my good friend Rhythmwiz says so. Good enough for me. It's not that Fockers is the worst movie ever, it's just that for a comedy it's so grossly unfunny you have to wonder if it'd have played better as a drama.
Apparently, Parents saw Ben Stiller's "hillarious!"ly monickered Gaylord Focker (ooh, my sides...) struggle to reconcile his hippy upbringing and general innept bumbling with the maternal scrutiny of his bride-to-be's father Jack Byrnes (frankly I'm amazed they didn't make his surname "Off" and be done with it), as played by the increasingly "for rent" Robert DeNiro. No doubt hillarious enough, but factor in Bobby D's past occupation as a CIA man and the scene was set for a paranoia-fuelled "rollercoaster of laughs!" as DeNiro subjected his young foil to polygraph tests, video surveilance and all manner of other intrusions which undoubtedly must have made Parents "...the year's best comedy!". Now, several years on, the pair have settled their differences and Gaylord is comfortably in Jack's "circle of trust". It'd all be so easy, were it not for the impending nupitals necessitating Stiller's introduction of his "riotously unconventional!" parents to the Byrnes'.
Yes, imagine the comic potential of a straight-laced CIA man and his quiet wife exchanging ideals with a hippy stay-at-home father and a liberated mother who teaches yogic sex therapy to elderly couples. A-ho ho ho! Admittedly there is some potential mileage to be had, especially when said parents Bernie and Roz are played by Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand. Safe hands, no? Mmmmmmmm, kind of, but kind of not, either. While the pair certainly manage to fill their characters in an affable enough incarnation, director Roach seems so workaday in his approach to what I'm sure both he and the studio were considering a cash cow that it's immediately obvious this is autopiloted megaphone territory. Either that or he's just shit. You decide. Either way the result is a waste of talent on a near biblical scale, for which there really is no excuse.
So then, if Fockers is bigging up Hoffman and Streisand as it's trump card, and if their presence is rendered massively redundant through directorial inneptitude, I guess we're left with a re-tread of the original, only with more "...hillarious!" sub-plots to pad out the action? Oh, how cynical! Oh, how so true! Ignoring the presence of two additional screen legends, Fockers reverts to previous form by having Gaylord once more ostracised from Jack's family unit, the elder latching onto a paranoid suspicion about a love child his future son-in-law may or may not have as an excuse to pump him full of truth serum and interrogate Gaylord in a secret intel and communications room hidden under the bed in Jack's ludicrously opulent RV. And yes, it's all as terse as I make it sound.
So, surprise of surprises, despite being surrounded by three of the most respected names in Hollywood, Fockers turns out to be yet another Ben Stiller vehicle; an act that seems even more egotistical than ususal given the company he chooses to keep here. None of this would be so bad mind you, only Stiller has never seemed a natural comic actor to me, and here his usual "affable Jewish everyman" schtick just doesn't cut the mustard like it does in so many of his other offerings. The needle, it seems, is firmly stuck in the groove, and wether or not he knows it, Stiller just doesn't seem to care. Mind you, as long as chumps like you and I are queueing up for half an hour to get in why should he, or the studios for that matter?
So then, what exactly do you get for your fiver? Confirmation that while the popularity of cinema continues to enjoy it's latter-day renaissance it is still fuelled by proportionately increasing levels of viewer apathy, and it's this apathy that in turn leaks into the studios, into the brains of writers and directors, and eventually right back into your own brain. For crying out loud people, wake up and smell the coffee. A dog shagging a rag doll in the trailer does not a great movie make, though apparently a great big queue it does. Aaaaaah, the things you see whe you're out without your gun...
Being the Lord Of All Human Knowledge, the royal "we" award this travesty a Hoffman-rescued 2 out of 5 Bobo Units
Robert DeNiro (Jack Byrnes)
Dustin Hoffman (Bernie Focker)
Barbra Streisand (Roz Focker)