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Unoriginality keeps sequel from ‘Parents’ greatness

Chris Kepner | Monday, January 24, 2005

Ah, the sequel. Hollywood’s favorite dirty little trick. Take a good film (or at least a decent one, but sometimes the standards on this vary to include some real stinkers), sign on as many of the original actors as possible, extend the original plot, add a few twists and presto barfo! You’ve (presumably) got yourself another blockbuster!”Meet the Parents” was a good film. It explored a comedic situation that hadn’t been overly explored in previous films of the same genre, like war epics. And though it wasn’t the most original film of all time, “Meet the Parents” had a very fresh vibe to it that couldn’t help but suck you in.Now for some reason, the excitement over “Meet the Fockers” was uncommonly high given the circumstances. Here was a sequel enjoying a very rare situation where the public wanted it made even more than the studio wanted to shove it down our throats. This reviewer was no stranger to the hype.Does “Meet the Fockers” meet expectations? Well, first you have to decide what your expectations are. If you expect a sequel with recycled jokes and a strikingly unoriginal and teeth-gnashing predictable plot continuation, then the answer is yes. If you expect an adequately entertaining film with a healthy amount of laughs, then the answer is also yes.So maybe it’s not original. So maybe it isn’t significantly funnier than “Meet the Parents.” So what? In short, if you lower your expectations you will probably enjoy “Meet the Fockers.”Hoffman really is hilarious. If for no other reason, he makes this film worth seeing. He plays Mr. Focker as an outgoing, physically affectionate man that shares his wife’s forwardness about all things sexual. Could you see the opposite to Robert De Niro’s Jack Byrnes in any other way? Hoffman and De Niro, two brilliant actors with previous experience playing together, are a special pair to watch in these two roles. Their chemistry, or their characters’ lack thereof, is the driving force of “Meet the Fockers.”Barbra Streisand probably will surprise moviegoers with her portrayal of Mrs. Focker. For an actor without a whole lot of experience in comedic roles, Streisand performs as if she’s done nothing else in her career.But the writing is another matter. You’ve got Stiller, De Niro, Hoffman, Streisand and a brilliant supporting cast. Why does the audience have to listen to the film’s unnatural, sophomoric dialogue? And was there really an urgency you had to outdo the most over-the-top bit in “Meet the Parents?” You know, the one with the cat peeing on the ashes of Jack’s mother? And if you absolutely had to do so, was dropping Greg’s shriveled foreskin from the scrapbook into the fondue the best that you could come up with? It’s trite, sloppy and lazy.If the film’s producers had called upon a better writer, this sequel probably would have been a much better film. It might have been able to succeed on its own merits, separate from following the highly successful “Meet the Parents.” For that reason, it’s a shame “Meet the Fockers” doesn’t live up to its potential.