Meet the Fockers, by Albert W. Vogt III

When I start something, I like to finish it.  If I do not, it ends up gnawing away at the back of my mind like a mental tapeworm.  Remember that book or series you began?  Remember that book or series you began?  Remember that book or series you began?  It is sort of like getting a song stuck in your head.  You hum or sing along to bits and pieces of the whole until you cannot take it anymore.  You must hear the tune in its entirety or you might go mad.  I am also like this when it comes to movies.  Take a look at the different films in a series reviewed on The Legionnaire.  If I have done the first one, I have also likely addressed the rest of them.  I may not always do them promptly, or in consecutive nights.  Yet, if the first one has been written about, I can all but guarantee you that I will be thinking about them until I do the rest.  Luckily, or unluckily depending on your perspective, I decided that after completing Meet the Parents (2000), I would immediately give you my thoughts on Meet the Fockers (2004).

It is some time after the events of the first film that we are reintroduced to Gaylord “Greg” Focker (Ben Stiller) in Meet the Fockers.  We are reminded once more that he is a male nurse, but he is called upon to work above his pay grade when all the doctors at the hospital he works at are busy and he has to deliver a baby.  The process goes smoothly, but Greg is his usual jittery self.  He feels he has reason because he and his fiancée Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo) are about to fly to meet up with Dina (Blythe Danner) and Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro), Pam’s parents.  See the last movie for why this did not go well.  Incredibly, the trip passes without incident and Greg and Pam arrive at the Byrnes’ no worse for the travel.  The first of many pitfalls begin at Dina and Jack’s place despite Greg having made it into Jack’s infamous circle of trust.  The initial one is the presence of Jack’s grandson, also named Jack (Bradley and Spencer Pickren).  Jack is busy trying to mold the toddler into a miniature version of himself, and he sees Greg as a potential corrupting influence.  The next problem involves their planned trek to do what the title says they are going to do.  They had originally been set to fly, but Jack has purchased a well-appointed recreational vehicle (RV) for the journey.  As such, they will be arriving sooner than expected, and a panicked Greg cannot reach his parents to warn them.  When they get to their South Florida residence, the first person they see is Greg’s dad, Bernie Focker (Dustin Hoffman).  He is in their front yard practicing capoeira.  Look that one up.  Meanwhile, Roz Focker (Barbara Streisand), Greg’s mother, is in the back of their house wrapping up her group sexual therapy session for the elderly.  In short, this is the kind of rough start Greg imagined when bringing his future in-laws to break bread with his own parents.  As you can guess, there are a series of missteps along the way that range in their level of hilarity as two worlds are, in some respects, literally colliding.  The worst comes at dinner that night when Bernie and Roz reveal that they have Isabel Villalobos (Alanna Ubach), Greg’s former babysitter, over to help with the meal.  Indicative of the Fockers’ penchant for oversharing, they inform everyone at the table that Greg lost his virginity to her.  Even bigger flubs come the next day.  An incident involving the Byrnes’ dog and Jack’s cat Jinx lead to part of the RV being damaged.  With the women wanting to go into town to shop, and Bernie offering to help Jack with repairs to the RV, this leaves Greg to watch Baby Jack on his own.  Greg has an added reason for wanting to do a good job in this role.  Earlier, Pam had revealed to Greg that she is pregnant.  While everyone had guessed her condition, she is keen to keep it a secret from her old-fashioned father.  This proves more difficult as one-by-one the news is sprung on everyone else in the house.  Yet, Jack is focused on two things: molding little Jack and judging Greg’s fitness for Pam by how the Fockers behave.  The latter of these takes a turn when the person who fixes the Byrnes’ RV turns out to be Isabel’s fifteen-year-old son Jorge (Ray Santiago).  Between the timing of his age, when Greg had sex with Isabel, and the fact that Jorge looks strikingly like Greg, Jack believes Jorge to be the child of Greg and Isabel.  Meanwhile, back at home, Greg’s supervision of Little Jack does not go well.  The kid manages to free himself from his play pen and glue his hands to a bottle of liquor, not to mention his first words being a curse word.  Jack finding this mess only makes him more determined to get Greg to admit to the younger man’s wrong doing.  To this end, Jack determines to perform a paternity test while also sticking Greg with sodium pentothal, otherwise known as truth serum.  The effects of this hit Greg as he takes the stage at an engagement party and gushes about all manner of embarrassing topics before eventually passing out.  The following morning, Jack is determined to leave, but everyone turns on him, including Dina and Pam.  In a huff, he drives off in the RV.  Bernie and Jack give chase, and all three end up in jail where they are able to hash out their differences.  Once that is done, Greg makes the decision that they will get married that weekend, and that is essentially where this tale concludes.

At this point in my review of Meet the Parents, I took the opportunity to pull one line of dialog out to say that Catholicism does not hate homosexuals.  It does not condone that lifestyle, but it does not permit it, either.  What I notice about this sequel is the way it attacks traditional modes of life.  The ideal is the wild alternative of the Fockers.  In this sense, Jack becomes the villain of this story.  Granted, he has his oddities, too, such as inventing a fake breast so that he can feed Little Jack as would the child’s mother.  It makes me wonder what those who would create a situation where the kind of sexual profligacy represented by Bernie and Roz would make of the Church if they truly understood it.  Roz, in particular, looks at Jack is being wound up too tightly, symbolized by the back spasms that periodically plague him.  I bring that up as my suspicion as to how such people would view the Church, that it is so rigid that it is liable to break somehow.  That is probably the charitable way of putting it.  I would posit that the kind of lifestyle that these people live is more of a prison than anything the Church would supposedly impose.  Take cloistered religious, for example.  One might look at the fact that they restrict themselves to one place for the rest of their lives as the opposite of freedom.  I promise you that they see it differently.

Do not get me wrong, Meet the Fockers is not a bad movie.  It just brings into sharp focus for this Catholic how far society has fallen away from what used to be more accepted behavior.  It is not solely about the way the Fockers behave.  What I notice is that those who had previously what was  considered an alternative lifestyle are now in, and they seem to treat those on the other side as they had once been treated.  Or maybe I am crazy?  Who knows?  Only God does, and I am fine with that.


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