Robert DeNiro is indisputably one of the best actors of all time. His greatness largely lies in an ability to take any project that he works on and be utterly convincing in the role - from armed robber to Vietnam vet, boxing champion to gangster. He has always been at the top of his game, the ultimate method-acting master, the person by whom standards are set. But over the last few years he has taken on a whole new breed of projects, mainly focussing on his more comic side and throwing a few B-movie 'horror/dramas' into the mix. We've had Analyse This and Analyse That, Godsend and Hide and Seek and now the sequel to his 2001 hit comedy Meet The Parents.His choice to do po-faced parodies of the characters that got him the title The Greatest Actor Of All Time is something which I do not necessarily agree with. Personally, I hope that he picks either picks a gem of a role, like Heat, and gives us a great movie to rave about, or waits until he starts getting the more juicy roles as the 'older' character a la Marlon Brando in The Godfather. But if he is going to keep making average movies, then I am going to keep watching them just for him and he is not the only actor who makes me feel this way. Meet The Parents is, in my opinion, the best of his recent film endeavours. It's a close call between that and the first Analyse film, Analyse This, but I would probably choose Parents purely because I liked his character more. However, sequels are a messy affair on the happiest of occasions - Analyse That being a case in point - so Meet The Fockers initially had me more than a little worried.
But then I heard about the cast. First up is the great Ben Stiller. He's starred in over a dozen solid comedies in the last decade - from the vastly underrated Zoolander to the absolutely fantastic Dodgeball - and I have always enjoyed his films. In “Meet The Parents” he was the perfect foil for DeNiro's deadly-serious ex-CIA dad so I was glad that he was back for the sequel. Aside from the excellent support of Teri Polo as the daughter Stiller courts and Blythe Danner as the mother, also both returning, we get a couple of new big names to add to the proceedings. First up is the great and vastly underused Dustin Hoffman here playing the father in the Focker family. It's not the first time DeNiro and Hoffman have done a movie together (Sleepers, Wag The Dog) but it is the first time they have had quite so much fun together. And then there's Barbara Streisland. What can I say? Her music never really appealed to me and her film roles haven't ever cried out for my attention, but she's a pretty big name to add to the list and she works well as the equally eccentric um... Mother Focker. So with that kind of a cast on board, why shouldn't I have a little more hope for the sequel?
Meet The Parents, for those who aren't familiar (and you really should see it first), was basically about the craziness that ensues when Greg Focker (Stiller) goes to meet his girlfriend Pam's parents - the trouble mainly from his trying to ingratiate himself with the protective father, Jack Byrnes (DeNiro). Meet The Fockers takes this not altogether original, but nonetheless well envisioned concept, raises it up a notch and sees the entire Byrnes family set out to meet Greg's parents, The Fockers. You would think that Jack couldn't really be topped for eccentricity, or at least over-enthusiasm, but wait until you meet Bernie Focker. Hoffman's father Focker provides a real shock to Jack's straight-laced way of life, with his loud Hawaiian shirt and rampant libido, and it would seem that - just as the conflict between him and his son in law, Greg, had somehow been resolved - another hurdle in the Byrnes-Focker communion has arisen.
Cue plenty of compromising situations, animal antics, Freudian slips and general goofing around, all heading, at times painfully, towards some kind of resolution. Highlights include Jack's soldier-like training of the new baby in the family, the American football game they partake in and Jack's 'customised' camper van - with armour plating and submarine-strength windows. There's also quite a funny bit where Greg is forced to tell the truth, leading to all kinds of embarrassing revelations. And you know what? The end result is that the movie is not too bad at all. I had heard terrible things about this film prior to release but they are really not justified. Sure, it is probably not quite as good as the original - sequels seldom are - but it is still pretty funny and will easily entertain fans of the first one. I guess you have to figure, how bad can it be with DeNiro, Stiller and Hoffman on board? Ok, so it's not one of DeNiro's greats, nor one of Stiller's funniest, nor even one of the most memorable performances by Hoffman, but the sum total is a thoroughly watchable comedy. Of the three, DeNiro is clearly the one who needs to pull his act together but, I guess, on his way to becoming a new Godfather (I wish!), making films like this really isn't that bad.
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