" Aw come on, it’s just a bug "
— Casper Van Dien, Starship Troopers

MRQE Top Critic

Muscle Shoals

Even if the Muscle Shoals sound isn't on your iPod, you'll like seeing where it came from —Marty Mapes (review...)

Etta sings in Muscle Shoals

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Meet the Fockers has a decent storyline that picks up where Meet the Parents left off. Unfortunately, too many boob and poop jokes spoil the fun.

Meet the Grandparents

Now meet the other parents
Now meet the other parents

For once, life couldn’t be better for Greg Focker (Ben Stiller, Dodgeball). Everything starts off so smoothly as he and his fiancĂ©, Pam (Teri Polo, Beyond Borders), head off to meet both sets of parents at the Fockers’ Michigan home.

The trouble starts, naturally enough, when Greg once again has to deal with Pam’s father, Jack (Robert De Niro, Goodfellas). As high strung as ever, this retired CIA man posing as a florist purchased one massive, high-tech RV for their road trip from New York to Michigan.

Along for the ride is Little Jack, Jack’s grandson, who is being raised under the most ridiculous and contrived child-rearing theories known to the trendy. That includes Jack’s invention for surrogate breast feeding, a device he refers to as the “mannary gland” and about which nothing more will be written here. Jack, still keeping Greg’s membership in the Byrnes Family Circle of Trust under close surveillance, is interested in finding out where Greg came from, thereby getting a clue as to where he’s going.

What ensues is a culture clash between the ultra-conservative Byrnes family versus the ultra-loose Focker clan.

Parents Just Don’t Understand

Those Fockers are Bernie (Dustin Hoffman, Rainman) and Roz (Barbra Streisand, Yentl). Bernie’s a former lawyer who became a stay-at-home dad, a strike in the traditional role-oriented worldview of Jack Byrnes. Roz is a sex therapist, another strike in the book of Jack Byrnes, a man who will not openly talk about sex but will wear a boob on his chest to feed an infant. (Ooops. So much for leaving the mannary gland to a single reference.)

Meet the Parents worked well because it played off of Greg’s goofiness and incredible ability to keep digging himself into an ever-deeper hole as he tried to impress Pam’s parents, relatives, and friends. There was an underlying sweetness to the shenanigans and Greg was a sympathetic, amiable character caught in a tangled web of his own making.

Here, the goodwill generated in the first movie is thrown away. Aside from one very funny sequence involving Greg breaking all the rules laid out by Jack regarding the care of his grandson, the focus has shifted to Greg’s parents. That makes sense and that alone would not be a bad thing, except for the fact that Greg’s parents are hippies fixated on sex talk and loosey-goosey behavior becoming of a 1960s love fest. Their in-your-face openness is forced, over the top, and highly annoying.

While the movie is rated PG-13, be warned that the majority of the humor is at a very emotionally retarded, juvenile, and crude level. It’s the kind of material that makes director Jay Roach’s Austin Powers movies look downright sophisticated.

You’ve Been Fockerized

Like the agony of anticipation when meeting a lover’s parents, Meet the Fockers is a conflicted experience.

It is overly awkward most of the time, but it’s a relief when Greg manages to simply be Greg and get in trouble. It’s also a breath of fresh air when Owen Wilson (Starsky & Hutch) returns for a brief appearance as Pam’s former boyfriend. Those moments are what make Meet the Fockers genuinely funny. The majority, though, is generic trash comedy that plays to the lowest common denominator.

At the start, there was the promise of something special with Streisand and Hoffman colliding with De Niro. The elder Fockers do serve as a nice foil to Jack, whose keen interest in honesty and trust is finally blown out of the water as he begins to realize he is the most devious of them all.

There’s plenty of material that could be mined in such a loopy set of characters, but the jokes all too often go south without even aiming for something higher.

At least Meet the Fockers isn’t the smug celebfest that is Ocean’s Twelve, and on occasion there is a bit of fun to be had. That includes Babs working her open-minded therapy on Jack’s wife, Dina (Blythe Danner, Forces of Nature).

Overall, though, Meet the Fockers could’ve used a lot more wit and a lot less… poop.