Question: What could keep a man in love waiting for two years before getting married?
Answer: His bizarre parents.
Meet the Fockers picks up where its predecessor, Meet the Parents, left off. Greg Focker and Pam Byrnes are engaged to be married (already living together), and the time has come for the couple's parents to meet. Greg barely survived the grilling that ex-CIA agent Jack Byrnes put him through in the first film, and he trembles at the thought of this straight-laced control freak spending a weekend with his ex-hippy parents.
Greg's fears are well founded. Bernie's outlandish displays of affection, his inability to keep secrets and 30-plus years of unemployment predictably meet with Jack Byrnes' scorn and suspicion. Add Bernie's sex-therapist wife, Roz, into the equation and, well, it's not hard to see why Greg starts telling lies in a vain attempt to keep his parents' weirdness under wraps. Naturally, those lies quickly catch up with him.
The Fockers and the Byrnes could hardly be more different, yet they do share an important quality: Both sets of parents care deeply about their children. Jack Byrnes is conservative, and Pam worries about how he'll respond when he finds out she's lost her virginity before marriage. Jack also works hard to teach, train and discipline his grandson, Little Jack (Pam's sister's kid), although his attention to the toddler definitely crosses into obsessiveness.
Where Jack emphasizes discipline and truthfulness, the Fockers value affection, affirmation and acceptance. Bernie has built a shrine celebrating Greg's "achievements" as a youth—including a few ninth-place ribbons. When Jack accuses Bernie and Roz of fostering mediocrity, Bernie says he and his wife were more interested in developing Greg's passion for life than a win-at-all costs machismo. Both families know which values they care about in life, and they're trying to live by them.
Pam is committed to Greg despite his bumbling persona and his penchant for protecting himself with "little white lies."
When Roz is showing off Greg's baby album, she mentions the Rabbi who performed his circumcision. Pam's former boyfriend, Kevin Rawley, makes an appearance as a "multifaith" priest; he wears a clerical collar as well as a yarmulke.
Audiences are bombarded by a steady stream of sexual innuendo and jokes, frank discussions of sexuality and some suggestive images. Roz is a sex therapist who specializes in "senior sexuality." (One scene shows clothed couples practicing "thrusts" and sexual positions.) Her home office is full of explicit (just shy of pornographic) paintings and statues depicting the intimate anatomy of the human body and couples in sexual poses. Sex self-help books populate her shelves.
Roz and Bernie are "comfortable" with their sexuality, and they're not afraid to talk about it. Lots and lots of screen time is devoted to dialogue that includes anatomical descriptions and jokes, masturbation and homosexual references, and Greg's disconcerting attraction to Pam's mom. There's even a discussion of Greg's first (teenage) sexual encounter with a maid.
Dina gives a shirtless Jack a massage that goes a bit too far. Bernie thrusts his hips suggestively at Dina, then slaps her backside. Other sex-related visuals include three scenes of a dog looking for love in all the wrong places (a leg, a cat and a doll), and a bus-load of cheerleaders flashing their chests and backsides at Greg and Jack (we're just barely spared full breast nudity). Trying to stop his parents from making so much noise as they gear up for sex, Greg storms into their bedroom. When he does we see that they've been playing games with whipped cream. (Bernie's face and Roz's nearly bare breasts are covered with it.)
Roz and Bernie's comfort level with sex translates into an acceptance of sex outside of marriage, so when they find out that Pam and Greg are pregnant, they're unequivocally elated. And they make great fun of Jack for being so antiquated and repressed as to think virginity should be guarded until one's wedding night. (The movie doesn't usually take sides when it comes to the Byrnes vs. the Fockers, but in this case it clearly applauds Bernie and Roz while thumbing its nose at Jack.)
Meet the Fockers includes several scenes of physical humor with a violent edge. Little Jack head-butts Greg, giving him a bloody nose. Later, Bernie tries to kick Jack in the face, but connects with Greg's head instead—another bloody nose. Greg throws a brick at Jack's RV to test its state-of-the-art bullet-proof shell, and it bounces off and shatters the windshield of his rental car. Playing football, Bernie hits Jack hard, and he falls painfully to the ground on his back.
Jack jams a syringe full of sodium pentothal into Greg's neck. Bernie and Greg get arrested, and the stereotypical "redneck" policeman slams them roughly onto the hood of his patrol car. Then he shoots Greg with a taser gun. A prolonged and gratuitous scene shows the cop apparently enjoying Greg's resulting convulsions and spasms. Jack shows up on the scene and receives the same treatment.
A cat flushes a dog down a toilet. Bernie smashes the porcelain to retrieve the animal. Little Jack watches violent footage from the movie Scarface.
Crude or Profane Language
Meet the Fockers never grows tired of using the family's surname in ways that sound a lot like that other f-word. (For example, Jack says, "I don't like what I'm seeing from these Fockers.") Characters also use the s-word about half-a-dozen times and take God's or Jesus' name in vain another 15 (including one use of "g--d--n"). "A--" and "h---" also get a workout. In fact, Little Jack's first word is "a--hole" (he learns it from Greg). The movie plays up Little Jack's "cute" potty mouth, showing him saying it over and over again. Greg makes an obscene gesture to Little Jack.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Greg and Pam have a glass of champagne on an airplane. Once the two families meet in Florida, a number of scenes depict them sharing mixed drinks. The Fockers throw an engagement party at a nightclub where virtually everyone has a glass of champagne. At the party, Jack injects Greg with a dose of sodium pentothal (truth serum), and Greg launches into a sloppily confessional monologue that partygoers mistake for an exhibition of drunkenness.
To calm Little Jack's crying due to teething pain, Roz suggests that Greg spike the tike's milk with rum. Greg gets distracted while implementing her plan, and Little Jack inadvertently glues the bottle of liquor to his hands.
Greg misleads Jack into believing that he smokes marijuana.
Other Negative Elements
One of the biggest sight-gags is an artificial breast-feeding contraption Jack has constructed so that Little Jack won't have "nipple confusion" while his mother is away. One side has a socket to plug in a bottle, while the other sports a very real looking artificial breast that Jack brags several times was modeled on his daughter's. (We're forced to look at it for long periods of time.)
A major theme is deception. The plot turns on how Greg tells one lie after another to prevent embarrassing information from being revealed. He lies about his parents' professions. He lies to his wife about how he lost his virginity. Etc. Each lie Jack discovers makes him more determined to find out who Greg really is. But for the most part, it's Jack's desire to discover the truth that is mocked, and the film doesn't offer much critique of Greg's dishonesty.
Greg's baby book includes some unusual keepsakes—including his foreskin, which ends up in a fondue pot.
So much talent. So much potential. So little that makes Meet the Fockers worth two hours of your time. About the best I can say about it is that it isn't as mean-spirited as Ben Stiller's last film, Dodgeball. Director Jay Roach seems obsessed with juvenile gibes and pratfalls, and only offer us a few moments in which we can laugh and not feel guilty. But at least it's a good-natured film about two sets of parents who love their kids and who're learning to love one another—despite their significant differences.
Not that that keeps this formidable array of acting talent from being wasted on potty humor and sex jokes run amok—not to mention characters that vacillate between flat and too-familiar. I simply wasn't pulled into the story or these characters' lives in a way that made me care about them as much as I did in Meet the Parents, which had its problems but was a decidedly better film. This script gives up on the creativity expressed there, and too often goes for the easy (sleazy) laugh.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Ben Stiller as Gaylord (Greg) Focker; Dustin Hoffman as Bernie Focker; Barbara Streisand as Roz Focker; Robert De Niro as Jack Byrnes; Blythe Danner as Dina Byrnes; Teri Polo as Pam Byrnes; Spencer and Bradley Pickren as Little Jack; Alanna Ubach as Isabella Villalobos; Owen Wilson as Kevin Rawley
Jay Roach ( )