It’s never been easy being Greg Focker. For 10 years, the former nurse—now a hospital administrator—has worked to win the respect of his hard-nosed, eagle-eyed, straight-laced, always-suspicious, ex-CIA father-in-law. But Greg’s diligence, combined with his affection for his wife (Pam) and their 5-year-old twins (Henry and Samantha), is finally paying dividends with ever-vigilant Jack Byrnes.
So much so that Jack decides Greg should be the Byrnes clan’s heir apparent—a position often referred to as the “God-Focker.”
But as Greg soon learns, with great responsibility comes even greater responsibility. Wearing the mantle of the family patriarch means providing the best for his children. And according to Jack, that includes a bigger house and the finest education money can buy (at the über-prestigious, über-pretentious Early Human School). That means pressure—pressure to make enough money to meet Jack’s sky-high expectations. Money Greg doesn’t have.
Finally, being the patriarch also means safeguarding your marriage from external threats. And in the wake of infidelity elsewhere in the Byrnes family, Jack is keen to know how things are going in the intimacy department between Greg and Pam. “Just fine,” Greg says.
And they are …
… until a flirty drug rep (Andi) peddling an erectile dysfunction drug shows up and presents Greg with a lucrative offer to become a professional spokesman for the medication.
That’s when Greg learns once more just how easily Jack Byrnes’ celebrated “circle of trust” can be broken.
Despite massive content problems, the movie highlights the importance of family and fidelity. Jack is, no doubt, a neurotic control freak. But he’s driven by at least one good motive: wanting the best for his family. This time around, he’s deeply troubled by the fact that his other son-in-law, Dr. Bob, has had an affair with a nurse and abandoned Jack’s daughter Deborah. He’s keenly interested in making sure Greg doesn’t succumb to the same temptation.
For his part, Greg is a conscientious husband and father. Though he doesn’t always use the best judgment in the way he relates to Andi, he’s not interested in an affair with her, and he rebuffs her inappropriate advances.
Greg’s parents (Bernie and Roz) and Pam’s zany ex (Kevin Rawley) frequently offer their own bizarre brands of encouragement and support to Greg and his family.
A subplot turns on Kevin’s spiritual journey. He’s a syncretist who dabbles in all kinds of religious teachings. Among other things, he hangs out with Deepak Chopra and Buddhist monks, babbles incoherent New Agey sayings—and gives lip service to the teachings of Jesus. (“Speak from the heart like my man J.C.,” he says.) A birthday party that the rich bachelor stages for Henry and Samantha is spiritually themed, and a giant Buddha statue is visible. Kevin says that when he volunteers to feed homeless people at a shelter, the “drifters feed my soul.”
Much of the story’s tension is generated by Greg’s relationship with Andi. When they meet, she tells Greg she’s convinced he’d be the perfect spokesman for Sustengo, an erectile dysfunction drug for men with heart problems. Regarding that possibility, Greg tells his wife, “Selling boner medication freaks me out.” After Pam meets Andi, she tells Greg, “You told me she sold boner medication. You didn’t tell me she was boner medication.” Little Samantha overhears that conversation and reports to Jack, “Andi gives Daddy his boners.”
It gets worse.
Immediately after meeting at the hospital, Greg and Andi are called to help a nurse give an obese man an enema. In the drawn-out scene that follows, he and she have what amounts to verbal foreplay as they riff off the process of inserting the tube. Throughout the foul encounter, we’re given detailed descriptions of the procedure’s progression with regard to lubrication, dilation and penetration. Afterwards, Andi bubbles, “That was so fun!”
A series of unfortunate events leads to Andi getting drunk, taking Sustengo, stripping off her shirt and jumping on top of Greg. (Jack watches through a window and assumes Greg’s having an affair.) Trying to get away from Andi, Greg stumbles into a large pit dug in the backyard. Andi further “capitalizes” by removing her skirt and again jumping on him. This time their collision knocks both of them out until morning.
Roz hosts a sex-therapy TV show with the tagline “Sexpress yourself!” Topics include musical condoms and comments about how Greg got carpal tunnel syndrome from masturbating as a teen. Another episode instructs parents of children to spice up their sex lives by pretending that they’re having an affair. Jack’s wife sees that episode and later initiates sex with him (offscreen) by pretending she’s his illicit lover. (We see that she’s wearing something lacy under a trench coat.)
Jack finds the Sustengo and takes it before that encounter. Its effects don’t wear off, and the gag eventually extends to Greg giving him an epinephrine injection in his penis. (The shot is given just offscreen.) Seeing more than he should’ve (much like everyone else watching from their theater seats), Henry later draws a stick figure picture of Greg “doctoring” Jack.
Bernie talks about the injuries caused by his unorthodox sexual encounters with Roz. Kevin says he’s on good terms with all his ex-lovers (including Pam and the head of the Early Humans School, Prudence). Bernie takes flamenco lessons from a scantily clad teacher. Kevin slaps his bikini-clad girlfriend’s backside. Jack finds Greg’s Sustengo speech online; it mostly pokes fun at Jack and crudely references the breastfeeding device from Meet the Fockers.
When Greg and Jack visit the Early Human School, Prudence thinks they’re gay. After the error is corrected, Greg chimes in with the idea that they could pretend to be a couple if it would help get his kids into the school. Bernie insists on calling Greg (whose given name is Gaylord) “Gay Focker.”
The movie’s two most violent scenes are both played for comedic value. Greg slices his finger while trying to carve a turkey. Blood fountains out of the wound, with streams of it staining Jack’s sweater. And a knock-down, drag-out melee between Greg and Jack involves multiple punches, kicks and flips—a fight that ends with Jack having a heart attack and Greg saving him.
Elsewhere, Jack jokingly suggests that he and Greg blow up Dr. Bob’s house. Kevin uses a nerve pinch to knock out Henry, who won’t go to sleep. We also see the boy fall from a climbing wall, resulting in a broken arm. Kevin, too, falls from a tall pole during a pseudo-circus performance at the twins’ birthday party. We also see him jump through a ring of fire. Greg accidentally unloads a dump truck full of sand on Jack, burying him. And Jack’s cat, Jinxy, tries (unsuccessfully) to eat Henry’s pet lizard.
Jack has another mild heart attack and uses electrical leads from his lie detector as a makeshift defibrillator.
The joke throughout this series has been the wink at the near f-word provided by the Fockers’ family name. That continues here … incessantly. Someone yells Greg’s name in a way that sounds indistinguishable from the f-word. When Greg stabs Jack with the hypodermic needle, Jack screams “Focker!” Greg gets a call from his mother, and we see the cell phone’s screen light up with “MOM FOCKER.” Jack and Greg use the term “God-Focker” seven or eight times.
We also hear close to 10 s-words, three misuses of Jesus’ name, and one or two uses each of “a‑‑,” “h‑‑,” “b‑‑ch,” “b‑‑tard” and “d‑‑n.”
The Fockers and Byrnes have wine at Thanksgiving. Greg and Andi have drinks at a bar, and she recalls a time when tequila mixed with rum chasers led to a one-night stand she later regretted. As mentioned, she gets rip-roaring drunk after downing both booze and Sustengo. Kevin talks about getting a tattoo of Pam while he was drunk.
We hear several conversations about Sustengo’s erectile effects.
Samantha doesn’t want anything to do with her dad for much of the film. She eavesdrops on her mother’s phone conversation with Greg and reports what she hears to Jack. Thus, it’s no surprise Jack favors Sam and thinks she’s a better representation of the Byrne clan’s genetics than Henry is.
Henry intentionally projectile vomits on his father—as payback for being told to eat something he didn’t want. He also regurgitates crude comments and questions about defecation and girls’ body parts. Nose picking and pubic hair also come up in conversation.
Jack confesses to Greg that he’s had a heart attack, asking him to lie to his family about it. As Jack increasingly suspects that Greg is cheating on Pam, he tries to steer Pam toward Kevin, calling the idea a “course correction.”
Ben Stiller, who plays Greg Focker, has built his career on gag-inducing gags that are so over the top you can hardly believe you’re seeing them. In 1998, for example, audiences winced as he got important parts of his anatomy stuck in his zipper—and his girlfriend mistakenly used semen as hair gel in the R-rated There’s Something About Mary.
The problem with such gags—or, I should say, one of the problems—is that audiences get desensitized to them and filmmakers have to keep dreaming up new ways to shock. As an arguable consequence of that ongoing cultural spiral, what was considered R-rated humor not that long ago migrates down into PG-13 comedies like Little Fockers. Twelve years after Mary’s mussed mane, the MPAA considers an extended scene comparing a catheter insertion to sex perfectly acceptable content for a 13-year-old. The same goes for a sequence about chemically induced arousal … and the shot required to put an end to it.
The result of such gags—or, I should say, one of the results—is that whatever positive messages might accidentally get delivered in between aren’t likely to be the things viewers are talking about or thinking about as they exit the theater. They certainly won’t be the things remembered 10 years later.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.