When Bad Sequels Happen to Good Actors
Bathroom, bedroom, and ethnic jokes abound in Meet the Fockers, the most disappointing sequel of 2004. Surprising, isn’t it? Especially when the extremely funny Meet the Parents cried out for a sequel. What went wrong here? Co-stars Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro are back, as is director Jay Roach and most of the screenwriters. However, missing in action are two original writers: Mary Ruth Clarke and Greg Glienna. Never underestimate the importance of bringing back all the writers to assure a sequel’s success -- although not necessarily in terms of box office earnings, for Meet the Fockers, despite its lackluster story, will surely bring in big bucks as it basks in the tremendous popularity of Meet the Parents.
Adding Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand to the cast should have boosted the sequel’s appeal. But, playing Gaylord “Greg’ Focker’s (Stiller) cheerful-to-the-max parents, these two veteran actors are given such silly material to work with that their scenes come across as the most embarrassing ones in a movie overflowing with humiliating sequences. He’s a former lawyer turned Mr. Mom; she’s a sex therapist for senior citizens -- and, wouldn’t you know it? -- they have a sex-obsessed little dog and a sexy Latina housekeeper. Their unusual Florida house -- replete with sex books, sex art and sex toys -- serves as the setting for a weekend meeting with Jack and Dina Byrnes (De Niro and Blythe Danner), the uptight parents of Greg’s fiancé (Teri Polo).
Making the trip to Florida with the Byrnes family is Baby Jack (played by the Speckner twins). Jack Byrnes, a retired CIA operator, has taken it upon himself to home-school this darling baby, his grandson left in his care by his son and daughter-in-law. Although cute little Jack evokes most of the laughs here, I fail to see much humor in hearing a baby utter a crude word over and over again ad nauseam. Nevertheless, many viewers at the screening I attended howled every time Baby Jack opened his mouth.
Jack Byrnes still can’t trust Greg, so he engages in covert shenanigans with a hidden camera again, but his clandestine actions aren’t as amusing the second time around. Questions arise concerning a secret pregnancy as well as about Greg’s past discretions, and the way Byrnes tries to find out the truth leads to trouble for himself and his future son-in-law.
Not to worry. Jack Byrnes becomes “Fockerized” by Greg’s far-out parents -- and everyone learns to accept and love one another in the end. Too predictable, you say? Then check out Flirting with Disaster, a truly hilarious and satisfying Stiller film that also features unconventional parents.
For those of you wondering what happened to Jinx, the cat who played such a key role in Meet the Parents, there’s bad news. This clever feline receives only limited screen time in Meet the Fockers. Jinx’s biggest scene? Flushing the Fockers’ dog down the toilet. How the mighty have fallen.
(Released by Universal Pictures and rated “PG-13” for crude and sexual humor, language and a brief drug reference.)