MEET THE FOCKERS

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


          You canít hit a home run every time.  But when Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, and Barbra Streisand are carrying the lead roles in a sequel, the producers should have hired the best script writer in the comedy business.  They didnít.  This script is wan, to say the very least.  Here is a high powered team eager to add collective and considerable punch to whatever they are asked to say.  Unfortunately, the dialogue is weak, the sight gags trite, and they are left standing there, punching soap bubbles. 

           Scriptwriters Jim Herzfeld and John Hamburg seem stuck in a small pool of adolescent humor, which may be an unfair thing to say about adolescents since a theater full of them was very quiet on the night I saw it.  Thatís clear:  the movie is a missed opportunity.  Cast to the hilt with nothing to say                           

            So letís talk about the laughs that do come, and about these brave actors trying to make something of nothing.  The toddler in the family comes up with a name for his doting grandfather that generates involuntary chuckles just because of the way itís delivered.  Knowing they have a good thing in this great line spoken by a baby, the filmmakers used it a few times too often; but itís still brings the best laugh in the house.   

            Everyone who has seen the trailer looks forward to the moment when the tiny dog is flushed down the RV toilet only to surface in chemical blue.  What we realize all too quickly is that a sight gag diminishes with each passing second.  The trailer was better than the movie because the scene was shorter. 

            We all know by now that Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner play the straight laced parents of the bride, Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand, blooming as hippies, the parents of the groom.  It is groom Ben Stillerís unenviable job to make peace between the two couples which is a challenge equal to bringing peace to the Israelis and Palestinians. 

            Robert deNiro uses one physical expression throughout:  a grumpy sneer of disapproval even when nothing in the situations or dialogue calls for running cynicism.  Blythe Danner, one of our finest stage actresses,  plays Mom as dumb and ditzy.  Ben Stiller gives an adequate but one note performance.  It is left to the hippies, Hoffman and Streisand, to raise the laugh bar.  Hoffman spreads the gospel of emotional expressionism, hugging everyone in sight, luring them to his certainty that all will be right if everyone just loves each other.  The great surprise here is Barbra Streisand who never grabs for a scene and becomes surprisingly convincing as the exuberant mom who smothers her son in overprotective love.  These actors could have made laugh waves if only they had been given something funny to say.  My own sophomoric self still loves the brideís announcement, ďIím taking my husbandís name; I will be Martha Focker.Ē

 


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