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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Bernie Focker: You think you can take me, Flower Man?
DVD ReviewI would wager that all of us, at one point, think—no, make that know—that the most embarrassing thing in the world is our parents. (I've been through my phase, and yes, now as a father, I'm waiting for the wheel to come round.) And if Tolstoy wrote as an adolescent, no doubt he would have thought that mortifying families are each mortifying in their own way. That domestic sheepishness is the kernel of Meet the Fockers, which, as a sequel, has even more star wattage than its predecessor, Meet the Parents, though it's neither as funny nor as endearing. This movie pushes past the line into unconvincing silliness for too much of the time, but you should know what you're in for simply by taking a look at the DVD case—if those six lined up make you chuckle at least a little (and it works for me), you're likely to find this more than an adequate way to pass the time.
When last we left our hero, Greg (né Gaylord) Focker had won over the begrudging respect of Jack, his fiancée's father, and had earned his place in the Byrnes Family Circle of Trust. Now, with a wedding date on the books, it's time, finally, for the Fockers and the Byrneses to meet, which means that Greg and Pam will be traveling from Chicago to New York, to meet up with her parents, and then travel with them on to Florida, to meet his. The inherent tension between a father and his daughter's boyfriend drove the first film, principally, and much of that has been dissipated; Robert De Niro, as Jack, gives a jokey riff of a performance, and Ben Stiller still gets to do plenty of brow-furrowing here, though his anxiety now is more about his own mother and father.
And with good reason: Bernie (Dustin Hoffman) is a capoeira-dancing house husband, married to Roz (Barbra Streisand), a sex therapist and author of such books as Is Your Vagina Happy? They're the new blood, and though the screenplay doesn't provide them with screamingly funny material, they make the best of it. Too often the movie relies on prop humor, or on animals; lots of the jokes here don't come out of moments of recognition, but out of bits of silliness like seeing an unfortunate little canine get flushed down a Winnebago toilet. (No animals were harmed in the making of this movie, I'm certain.) There's a good amount of winking and nudging to the audience; these moments can be inspired, especially if you're an attentive fan of the first film—I was especially delighted to see Greg's friend the flight attendant make an encore appearance—but much of this movie plays out like not-so-funny episodes of a favorite sitcom a few too many seasons into its run. Most of these revolve around the Byrneses' grandchild, little Jack, who Grandpa Jack is going to turn into a prodigy, dammit; Jack's solution for breastfeeding the infant when his mother is unavailable is especially insane and inspired.
For many of the scenes, watching the actors having fun is often enough—when the two fathers go at it in a game of backyard football, for instance, it's hard to watch and not think: check it out, it's Travis Bickle versus Ratso Rizzo. This is Streisand's first movie in over twenty years for which she serves as an actor only; not producing or directing seems to have brought a sense of relief to her, really, and she can rip it up, with Hoffman especially, with as much zest as anyone. Teri Polo as Pam and Blythe Danner as Jack's beleaguered wife Deena get less to do; it's actually a pretty hermetically sealed movie, and when, for instance, the Fockers throw a big engagement party, you can't help but wonder: who are all these people?
Some reviews I've read have emphasized the religious aspect of things here, seeing it as a tale of Jew (Focker) versus Gentile (Byrnes); aside from not being accurate, it leeches the movie of all of its comedy, and takes it much too seriously. Director Jay Roach is much more interested in things like getting as much mileage as possible out of the surname Focker (cf., cousins Randy and Horny), and in leaving open the door for a third entry in the series. I'll line up for that one, too, most likely, with a fervent hope that in the coming years my son and the special someone he may bring home some day will be kind.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: Professionally shot, but not transferred with the utmost care; you can see some degrading of the color scale around the edges.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: The good Lord invented Dolby Digital so we could hear "Come on, you Fockers, conga!" come at us in 5.1, didn't He? Solid and professional transfer.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring In Good Company, Season Two DVD releases of Magnum P.I., Knight Rider, The A-Team
22 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Jay Roach and Jon Poll
A group (11m:04s) of 30 bloopers show that master thespians can get the giggles like the rest of us, and go up on their lines. Inside the Litter Box: Behind the Scenes with Jinx the Cat (04m:04s) features the animal trainer, and Roach, with his tongue firmly in cheek, talking about his on-set feline diva; The Manary Gland (03m:06s) is more than you care to know about a featured prop, with propmaster Eugene McCarthy. Click on the individuals in a Focker Family Portrait for very brief featurettes, with Hoffman, Stiller and Streisand discussing their roles; The Adventures of a Baby Wrangler (05m:35s) is all about keeping up with the twins who play little Jack. All the talent convened on the set for Today and you can see what happens when Matt Lauer Meets the Fockers (07m:58s); you'll also find brief bios for the six principal actors, and seven members of the production team. The funniest extra has nothing to do with the feature—it's a promo (02m:32s) for Scrubs; and since this is a sequel, the accompanying trailers are for the second seasons of some of your very favorite television programs. There's the promise of DVD-ROM content, too, but the relevant link takes you on a virtual road to nowhere.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsA silly sequel that's not as rewarding or as funny as the first, but that still has a stellar cast and more than its fair share of laughs.
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