There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
How exactly meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time went from a slightly awkward dinner and brief question-and-answer to a trial-by-fire weekend filled with assorted wacky high jinks is beyond me. I guess Meet the Parents was just going for maximum comedic potential—but if Meet the Fockers is any indication, said potential was exhausted with that first film. Director Jay Roach—who, after helming all three Austin Powers flicks, is more than familiar with the concept of milking a gimmick for every sequel it’s worth—sticks to what worked the first time around in this parents-meet-the-parents squirmfest: cats flushing toilets, liberal use of the Focker family name, and, of course, the all-important “Circle of Trust,” into which Ben Stiller’s poor Greg Focker must (once again) earn his way back after his tangled web of well-meaning lies (once again) lands him out of favor with Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro), his soon-to-be father-in-law. Greg’s own parents, on the other hand—a retired legal-aid lawyer (Dustin Hoffman) and a sex therapist (Barbra Streisand) for the elderly—are the embodiment not so much of every ex-hippie cliché known to Hollywood as of the film’s central motif: one-upping its predecessor. It’s a tactic Roach tries time and time again, but manages to pull off only once: when Isabel, the Fockers’ voluptuous Latin caterer—to whom Greg, as he fails to mention to his secretly pregnant fiancée, lost his virginity years ago—introduces her 15-year-old son—who bears an overwhelming physical similarity to young Focker—to Mr. Byrnes. It’s the sort of cringe-inducingly uncomfortable yet just barely conceivable humor that this otherwise piddling collection of crude, over-the-top gags needs. But by the time ex-agent Byrnes hunkers down in his RV and enlists the aid of his former CIA associates in the effort to establish Greg’s paternity, the setup has been reduced to one more Rube Goldberg–esque plot device. And all along, the outcome of the film is painfully clear. Will Greg be able to prove his worth to his fiancée’s grumpy old dad? Will these two stuck-in-their-own-ways sets of parents be able to put aside their differences for the sake of their children’s happiness? Given the franchise’s ongoing box-office success, I’d say the chances are about as good as those of there being a Meet the Parents III. —Matthew Borlik