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In 2001, Robert De Niro made his third latter-day comedy, Meet the Parents, following the underrated Showtime and the amusing Analyse This. Although I’m predisposed towards his more glorious roles where his method acting really shines, I have resigned myself to accepting that anything is better than nothing from him. Unfortunately his last couple of ‘serious’ films have been truly awful—Godsend, and Hide and Seek—and whereas at least his comedies nominally provided a few laughs, even Analyse That was pretty poor (and clearly a sequel too far). Luckily Meet the Parents was the strongest of his recent comedy roles, probably because it had such a great cast (featuring the likes of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson), so I wasn’t too put off by a sequel that sees most of them return and yet more big names join them.

Meet the Fockers
Film
In Meet The Parents, De Niro played a possessive father who puts his potential son in law, played by Ben Stiller, through his paces in order for him to secure his blessing. The character, Jack Byrnes, is easily the most entertaining recent comedy character that De Niro has played, coming off as only a hair’s breadth away from that of his standard serious film roles, like in Ronin, as government agents. Here he is also CIA, or at least retired from the CIA, but it appears that nobody has told Jack that. After putting Stiller’s amusingly named Gaylord Focker through everything up to and including a lie detector test, they finally resolved their differences and Gaylord was accepted into the Byrnes’ family ‘circle of trust’… the end. Or so we thought.

Meet the Fockers sees Stiller’s Gaylord happily co-habiting with his fiancée Pam, and dreading the impending family gathering between his only recently acceptant in-laws and his own parents. Joining them on the trip to see the Fockers is a new addition to the Byrnes’ household, Jack’s grandson—by his other daughter—who he is babysitting while she is away on holiday. This of course leads to no end of trouble on the way down to the Florida Focker residence, involving Jack’s obsessive training of the child, and Gaylord once again donning his ‘must please my father in law even if I look like an idiot’ persona. Already you can see that things seem doomed, even before they get there. Upon arrival, we get to meet Gaylord’s parents, who are even stranger than the Byrnes—if that’s at all possible. The dad, Bernie—played by Dustin Hoffman—is an oversexed capoera-practising full-time house-husband, and the mother, Roz—played by Barbara Streisland—gives sex therapy to pensioners. Within seconds Jack’s by-the-numbers approach is being dented by the Fockers’ free-living feel good spirit and the conflict, in particular between him and Bernie, makes for several laughs.

Meet the Fockers
Really, Meet the Fockers is just a re-hash of Meet the Parents, with a few extra names to add to the list. Sure, there are a few more sex related jokes because of the nature of the Fockers characters, and the baby makes for some interesting scenes, but many of the key jokes from the first movie are repeated—the pets and their toilet issues, Gaylord’s inability to get anything right and almost the whole lie detector theme. That’s not to say that it does not work, I personally thought that it was actually quite funny. The jokes come at you regularly and, whilst seldom laugh-out-loud, they will have you thoroughly entertained for the duration. And even though I think they take De Niro’s character a bit too far in the final reel, the surprise cameo at the end will leave you on a high note.

Much of the credit should go to the cast who all really put a great deal into trying to make things funny. Sometimes this did not particularly pay off, but more often than not—especially in Hoffman’s case—you really got to see a different side of the actor. With this many big names on board, you would expect the film to be good and, whilst perhaps not quite as funny or original as the first movie, it is still not nearly as bad as some critics would have you believe. And stick around for the end credits as well, they are quite amusing.

Video
The main feature is presented in a perfectly respectable 1.85:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. The detail is fairly good throughout, with no noticeable softness and little edge enhancement. There is also almost no grain, although a couple of the outdoor scenes show it creeping in. The colour scheme is fairly broad—particularly given the setting—with luscious greens and vivid reds, and no colour bleeding. Blacks are also well represented, given strong, dark tones. Overall, it is a decent transfer with no dirt, dust or other defects to affect your viewing.

Audio
The primary track is a Dolby Digital 5.1 effort that does a good job of representing this comedy in all its glory. Dialogue is understandably at the forefront, from murmurs to shouts, crying to laughter, it all comes across clearly and realistically through the frontal array. There are few effects to keep the surrounds happy, mainly because of the nature of the content, but the lively score—evocative of the silent movies of days gone by—is well captured and suits the madcap mayhem that is sometimes on offer here. Given the kind of movie that it is, this is a perfectly acceptable and positively enjoyable soundtrack but certainly not a benchmark track to set your system by—especially with almost no bass whatsoever. There are also alternative language options for the Hungarian dialect of Magyar and subtitles in both languages for the main feature and the commentary track.

Meet the Fockers
Extras
First up we get an audio commentary with the director and the editor. They previously worked together on the first film and also did an audio commentary for that and it was a similarly scatty affair. I have listened to several commentaries recently where the participants have been so distracted by the movie itself that they end up taking long breaks and providing very scattered information about the film, and this is no exception. Although they clearly know a great deal about the movie, the story, the characters and the actors, and go into reasonable detail on all aspects, the real bits of interest come in small nuggets here and there and you have to sit through a great deal of waffle to get to them. One highlight is about Hoffman’s affinity for the peacocks that were on set and how he had to mimic them in order to get them to shut up. There is also a fair amount of time talking about De Niro and how he has turned his skills towards comedy in the same way that he would any film he put his mind to, but much of the information you could just glean from watching the movie itself. Still, if you liked the commentary on the release of the first movie, you’ll know what to expect here.

Next up we get a behind the scenes featurette with Jinx the Cat. Don’t be misled—this is a four minute montage of cat scenes with a few members of the cast and crew giving mocking sound bites about how great the cat was ‘I called him sir’. ‘The Manary Gland’ is another ridiculously short, almost worthless bit of fluff discussing one of the funny gimmicks in the movie, the so-called ‘manary’ gland, used to enable men to feed babies like women. We basically hear how they selected from a wide variety of breasts to get the one they used and how it is based on a real concept. ‘The Fockers’ Family Portrait’ option enables you to select from Bernie, Roz or Greg and see a couple of minutes of interview with the respective cast member—Hoffman, Streisland or Stiller—talking about their characters. This is quite a nice, but again ridiculously short, extra that features a few behind the scenes set glimpses and some nice comments about the film and its characters. It is always nice to hear from the main actors, so it is a worthwhile addition.

‘The Adventures of a Baby Wrangler’ is a five-minute featurette all about the baby in the movie, Jack, and the two twin babies that portrayed him. Their minder—or ‘wrangler’—talks about how they had to be tag-teamed because one would get tired and the other would have to be brought in to continue, and how they were trained to do the various actions in the movie. I personally think it’s great that babies can be taught more when younger because they absorb more, but I’m not certain how good it is to conduct an entire film like this around two fairly sensitive children. Much as it’s nice to hear how they managed to avoid the use of effects, perhaps a few effects would have saved the babies a lot of grief. Nonetheless, they did a great job and came across as extremely funny. The featurette, on the other hand, is of limited interest.

Meet the Fockers
‘An Interview with the Fockers’ is the most substantial of the featurettes, running at a whopping eight minutes!! Here we get all of the family members on both sides sitting around in one of the sets and chatting to an interviewer. Both the Byrnes and Fockers family members are there and it is quite nice to hear from all of the cast members in this way, even if their contributions are fairly brief. Hoffman seems to control the discussion, along with Stiller, and it is an interesting little extra that should be first on the list of featurettes to be watched. It’s only a shame that you don’t get more out of the famously anti-interview DeNiro, although merely having him on set for it—not to mention laughing—is a plus I suppose.

Right, on to the good stuff. Comedies featuring De Niro give you the best of both worlds when it comes to deleted scenes and outtakes. Not only is there likely to be more footage featuring him, but this is also likely to be footage that is funny. Here we get lucky on both counts, with a sixteen minute montage of deleted footage and another eleven minutes of bloopers. The deleted scenes are largely just extensions of scenes that are already in the film, although a couple of them should have been included—normally the ones with Jack in them—and it is worth sitting around until the end because the surprise Stiller scene there is really quite funny. The bloopers are, of course, much more entertaining than the deleted scenes and even possibly the movie itself, and this is mainly due to the fact that you get to watch endless shots of De Niro cracking up because he cannot keep a straight face on set. I found that particularly amusing. Much like Jackie Chan’s infamous great outtakes for his films, the outtakes here are well worth your time. In fact, if you like the film, it is almost worth getting the disc just to see them.

Finally there is a trailer for the amusing and innovative new Jim Carrey release, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Meet the Fockers
Overall
Meet the Fockers is quite an amusing little movie with an all-star cast and much the same story as the first film. In fact, if you liked the first film, I don’t really see how you can be disappointed with this – it’s just more of the same. De Niro should really know better, but as I’ve said, it’s better than him making no films whatsoever. The technical specifications of the disc are decent if not spectacular and there are a fair amount of extras on the discs, including outtakes which will have you laughing even more than the main film itself. Rent and then see whether you feel it’s going to be a keeper.


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