DVD Review HTF Review: Meet the Fockers

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jason Perez, Apr 23, 2005.

  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

    Jul 6, 2003
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    Meet the Fockers

    Studio: Universal
    Year: 2004
    Rated: PG-13
    Running Time: 116 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Captions: English
    Subtitles: French and Spanish
    Audio: English – Dolby Digital 5.1; French and Spanish – Dolby Digital 5.1

    Release Date:
    April 19th, 2005

    Meet the Parents, one of the runaway hits of 2000 - it has grossed over $330 million worldwide - was an extremely funny movie that generated its laughs by focusing on a situation that we all dreaded (or dread, for those of you who are still single), namely meeting your future in-laws for the first time. In this film, we saw Gaylord “Greg” Focker (Ben Stiller), a likeable, upstanding male nurse attempting to win his prospective in-laws’ approval, with disastrous results.

    You see, unfortunately for Greg, his girlfriend Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo) had given him the wrong idea about her father Jack (Robert De Niro), so he was completely unprepared for the intense, uptight, and overbearing personality of the man whose favor he would be attempting to win. More specifically, Pam told Greg that Jack was a retired florist, and not the truth – that he really worked as a “human lie detector” for the CIA, tracking down double agents.

    Indeed, from the very first moment he met Jack, Greg felt on edge, and tried much too hard to make a good first impression on the stern Mr. Byrnes and his sweet wife Dina (Blythe Danner). As fate would have it, each of Greg’s successive efforts or little white lies met with more disastrous results, and Greg ultimately all but ruined the wedding of Pam’s sister Deborah (the late Nicole DeHuff). Luckily, everything worked out in the end, and Jack tried to mend fences by “lightening up a lot” and inviting Greg back into the Byrnes family’s “circle of trust”.

    Moving on to this particular film, I think that Meet the Fockers meets a fate similar to that of the sequels to most blockbuster big-budget comedies. To be specific, the film comes across as a bit more redundant, a bit less ingenious and charming, and a bit less humorous than the film that preceded it, and not just because we are familiar with the characters. Of course, since Meet the Parents, was so very lucrative, both at the box office and on home video, a follow-up was all but inevitable, regardless of whether it was really needed or not (to be honest, I was really looking forward to it).

    So, why is the film not as laugh-out-loud funny as its predecessor? Well, with director Jay Roach and his screen-writing team John Hamburg and Jim Herzfeld returning, the film does have a look and feel similar to that of its predecessor, and big name stars Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand signed on to join Robert De Niro in hamming it up alongside Ben Stiller and the rest of the cast from Meet the Parents. This being the case, it would seem only natural that Meet the Fockers be as good or better than the original. Let’s try and see what went wrong…but first let me set the table by telling you a bit about the story.

    Though this sequel was long anticipated (by me, at least), and took over four years to get to the screen, it has been only two years in story time since the events in Meet the Parents. When we re-join the characters, we see that due to Greg’s apprehension about getting Jack and Dina together with his own parents, his marriage to Pam has been delayed. Finally, however, fate has run its course, and Greg and Pam are taking Jack and Dina to sunny Florida, where they will meet their future in-laws, Bernie (Hoffman) and Roz (Streisand) Focker!

    To make the trip, they pile into Jack’s pimped-out recreational vehicle, along with Mr. Jinx and Pam’s nephew, “Little Jack”. I suppose one good thing is that Little Jack has diverted “Big” Jack’s attention away from Mr. Jinx, so the retired CIA operative now focuses his attention on his grandson instead of the cat. His behavior is no less weird than it was with Mr. Jinx though, as he attempts to communicate with the toddler through hand signals and feed him in a manner that is funny, but also unorthodox and disturbing at the same time! [​IMG]

    Anyway, the clearly insane Jack has made it abundantly clear to Greg that if the impending meeting of the two families goes badly, he will not support Greg’s marriage to Pam. In his words, he “cannot have any chinks in his [family] chain.” Picking up on a theme from the first film, the worried Greg tells a small fib – he has built his parents up as normal folks with professional careers, but Jack eventually learns that Bernie quit practicing law to raise Greg and that Roz is a sex therapist that cannot keep her hands off of her husband.

    As you might expect (there would be no movie otherwise), the two families are very different, and their relationship is fraught with tension and discomfort. To be more descriptive, Jack is dismayed by the Fockers’ liberal sensibilities and hyperactive sex drives (at least compared to his). Their dissimilarities are further exacerbated by Greg’s little white lies, and once things start unraveling again, Jack digs even deeper, hoping to uncover a big secret he thinks Greg has been keeping from him. With so much chaos and distrust, it remains uncertain whether or not the big day will ever come for Pam and Greg!

    Okay, that is the story, in a nutshell, so let’s talk a little about why I think Meet the Fockers could have been much better, beginning with the misuse of the Gaylord Focker character. In my opinion, the best thing about Meet the Parents was the way Ben Stiller portrayed Greg Focker, making him a well-meaning, likeable guy who just could not seem to catch a break. Unfortunately, since then, he has returned to the same well in other films, such as Along Came Polly, so the characterization is no longer as fresh of funny as it was five years ago.

    In the first film, the focus was also squarely on the somewhat strained relationship between Jack Byrnes and his prospective son-in-law. This time, however, not only is Stiller’s shtick a little tired, but the interplay between Greg Focker and Jack Byrnes has been toned down to play up the relationship between Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman’s characters. While this is not entirely a bad thing (De Niro and Hoffman are as committed and professional as ever), I think that Greg Focker should have been given more things of interest to do and say.

    Further, this movie is far too over-reliant on jokes about Greg’s name (Gaylord Focker) and his chosen profession (he still works as a nurse). Funny, funny, ha ha…these rehashed gags and plays on words, and even some new ones, are simply repeated to the point that they go from stimulating laughter to inducing groans later in the film. For instance, when Greg accidentally teaches “Little Jack” a curse word, I laughed. I even laughed the second time LJ said it, but when the toddler kept repeating it time and again, I became annoyed. With all the talent that went into making this film, I have to ask myself why so many jokes were recycled/repeated in this fashion, and why it felt like the filmmakers were trying much too hard to get a laugh?

    Surprisingly, despite these criticisms, Meet the Fockers did make me laugh quite a bit, and I think it did end up being a fairly enjoyable sequel to a comedy that charmed the pants of a great many people, myself included. And while Meet the Fockers is not quite as polished as its predecessor, I think it still entertains, due in large part to the inspired performances of some of its cast. For instance, Dustin Hoffman turns in what is arguably the funniest performance of his storied career as Bernie Focker. Indeed, he almost carries the entire film on his shoulders whenever he is on screen, with a performance that is not only wacky, but provides ample evidence of how much effort he puts into his work.

    As I mentioned, Ben Stiller is a little bit constrained by the material, but he once again does a respectable job as the hapless “straight man” to not only Robert De Niro, but to Hoffman and Barbara Streisand, who proved to be much more likeable in the film than I could have imagined. As you might expect, De Niro is also in fine form, and seems very comfortable playing the Jack Byrnes character. In my opinion, however, the performances of Hoffman and Streisand are the most noteworthy things about Meet the Fockers, and I am certain that the film would have been a lot worse without their presence.

    All in all, I think Meet the Fockers is the type of film that most people know exactly what to expect of before they even see it. Perhaps many of my problems with the film come from my love of Meet the Parents, which gave me very high hopes for this film. Then again, after giving it more thought, although the end result was somewhat entertaining, I wish that the filmmakers had challenged themselves to put forth a product that was not so derivative. Still, if you keep your expectations in check, I suppose the film will not disappoint too much. Personally, I was hoping for something a little more memorable.

    Presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) by Universal, Meet the Fockers looks very good on DVD! To begin with colors are deep and rich (the interior of Jack’s RV) or bold and bright (the Fockers’ home and wardrobe) when need be, and are free of any distractions or abnormalities. Blacks are also dark and noise-free, giving the image plenty of depth and dimensionality, not to mention an excellent sense of shadow detail.

    The transfer is also ripe with detail, allowing viewers to catch objects in the background of a shot, like the eclectic decorations in Roz Focker’s office. Since the film was a recent, big-budget production it should come as no surprise that the print is pristine, and I noticed absolutely no print damage or debris in the image. Finally, digital disturbances like compression artifacts were not on hand to Meet the Fockers, and edge enhancement is hardly noticeable. This is a very nice transfer!

    Even for a comedy, the Dolby Digital 5.1 channel surround mix for Meet the Fockers was rather subdued and center oriented. The good news is that fidelity is fine and dialogue is always easily discernable, even when characters are speaking over each other. Randy Newman’s comfortable music is also spread across the front of the soundstage rather nicely.

    The rear channels are used minimally, chiefly only to add some subtle support to the film’s music. In a similar fashion, the subwoofer sits most of this film out, coming to life at infrequent moments, such as when Jack’s RV rumbles by, or to add some bottom end to the music being played by a lounge act.


    Audio Commentary
    Although it certainly was not the worst one I have listened to, the audio commentary, by director Jay Roach and editor/co-producer Jon Poll, was a little too light on detail and screen-specific for my taste. During the film’s running time, the two fellows discuss the development of the characters, the locations used, and the challenges of working with the kids that portrayed “Little Jack”. They also talk about trying to please the audience by balancing new material with jokes that tie into the previous film and how the screening process was used to piece the final cut of the film together. Unfortunately, as I mentioned, they do not delve into any of these topics to deeply.

    Deleted Scenes
    There are a total of 20 deleted scenes available for our perusal, ten of which were placed back into the film for this “extended edition”. Running for a total of 15 ½ minutes, the scenes feature Greg and Bernie encountering a hostile policeman, Roz talking to Jack and Dina about yoga, and Greg getting confronted by Jack about drinking, among other things. A couple of the scenes were funny, but most were wisely cut from the film.

    Extended Edition of the Film
    If you select this viewing option, you can see how some of the deleted scenes would have worked if they were cut back into the film. The transition is not quite seamless, however, as there are brief pauses whenever one of the excised scenes is accessed, and the image quality is not only non-anamorphic, but also noticeably less refined.

    Gag Reel
    A total of 11minutes of outtakes are included for our viewing pleasure, and as was the case with the outtakes from Meet the Parents, only a few are worthwhile. The majority simply feature Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro laughing at each other.

    Inside the Litter Box: Behind-the-Scenes With Jinx the Cat
    This tongue-in-cheek featurette, which runs 4 minutes, reveals how demanding the superstar cat, Mr. Jinx, is, and all of the special treatment he had to have during the shoot.

    The Manary Gland
    Running for 3 minutes, this featurette gives viewers insight into the creation of one of the film’s more interesting sight gags. Director Jay Roach kicks things off, and prop master Eugene McCarthy picks up from there, and discusses the interesting research he did to make the “Manary Gland” a reality.

    Fockers’ Family Portrait
    This bonus feature consists of separate 2-minute interviews by Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller, and Barbara Streisand, who offer their thoughts on the characters that comprise the free-spirited Focker family.

    The Adventures of a Baby Wrangler
    Through this 5-minue extra, viewers are given an idea of the challenges of trying to direct children on a movie set, and told how accommodating Robert De Niro was to the twin boys that played Little Jack.

    Matt Lauer Meets the Fockers
    This featurette is as it sounds, with Matt Lauer conducting an 8-minute interview with the principal cast of Meet the Fockers in the Focker family living room. More specifically, Mr. Lauer asks the actors about the relationship between them, the difficulty in working with small children, and “real life” experiences they may have had meeting in-laws. Watch for an interesting discussion by Streisand and Hoffman about their early days in acting school.

    NBC’s Hit Comedy Scrubs “Training Day”
    This short (2 ½ minute) promo for the show Scrubs offers viewers a chance to see how the actors prep for their roles, to make the show more realistic. There is no question that this is promotional (what else would it be doing on here), but it is funny stuff!

    Cast and Filmmakers
    Brief bios and filmographies are available for:

    --- Robert De Niro (as Jack Byrnes)
    --- Ben Stiller (as Greg Focker)
    --- Dustin Hoffman (as Bernie Focker)
    --- Barbra Streisand (as Roz Focker)
    --- Blythe Danner (as Dina Byrnes)
    --- Teri Polo (as Pam Byrnes)
    --- Jay Roach (Director)
    --- Jim Herzfeld (Screenplay)
    --- Marc Hyman (Story)
    --- John Hamburg (Screenplay)
    --- Robert De Niro (Producer)
    --- Jane Rosenthal (Producer)
    --- Amy Sayres (Executive Producer)
    --- Nancy Tenenbaum (Executive Producer)

    Promotional Materials
    The disc kicks off with promos for the DVD releases In Good Company, Knight Rider – Season Two, Magnum P.I. – Season Two, and The A-Team – Season Two.


    (on a five-point scale)
    Film: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Video: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Audio: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Extras: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Overall: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    While it is not quite as funny or endearing as it predecessor, if you keep you don’t expect too much, Meet the Fockers is good for a few laughs. The best thing about the film is watching Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, and “Babs” breathe life into material that is a little beneath their talents. If only the script was a little less repetitive, I think this film would have been a lot better than it was. If there is to be a third installment (I am sure the $$$ made has the studio interested) I really hope that the filmmakers exercise more creativity. Though it was moderately enjoyable, I can’t shake the feeling that with such a talented group of filmmakers, writers, and actors, Meet the Fockers should have been better.

    Switching gears, in terms of its presentation on DVD, I have to say that I was very pleased with the Meet the Fockers disc. First off, the audio and image transfers were pleasant to see and hear, and the disc contains a wealth of bonus features that should interest fans of the film, including over 15 minutes worth of deleted scenes and featurettes on Mr. Jinx and the Manary Gland! As such, if you liked this film more than I did, and plan to spin it from time to time, I am quite comfortable in recommending a purchase.

    Stay tuned…
  2. David Galindo

    David Galindo Screenwriter

    Mar 30, 2003
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    Nice review! I havent seen it, but plan to do a rental. Thanks!
  3. Joseph Bolus

    Joseph Bolus Cinematographer

    Feb 4, 1999
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    Mmmm ... I'm really surprised that more was not mentioned concerning the really horrendous Edge Enhancement evident on this transfer in the first twenty minutes or so of the film (I viewed the theatrical cut of the movie.)

    On my 96" FPTV system, this was the worse EE I have noticed with a new release since Tom Hank's Castaway.

    I agree that the majority of the scenes are (mostly) "EE-free"; but the first part of the movie was awful!
  4. Dave Scarpa

    Dave Scarpa Producer

    Apr 8, 1999
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    Real Name:
    David Scarpa
    I thought I was the only one that noticed the first 20 minutes of this look like the worst transfer I've ever seen on a new film. I have the same size screen as you. After that however the film looks quite good so I'm not sure what happened there.
  5. mikey ra

    mikey ra Stunt Coordinator

    Oct 6, 2004
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    Ditto. I also noticed some blemishes on my copy in some of the scenes after the first twenty minutes. I thought a newer movie like this one would be almost pristine.
  6. Rex.G

    Rex.G Stunt Coordinator

    Feb 8, 2004
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    To me this DVD represents everything that has gone wrong with dvd. But at least it is in OAR. Why do we put up with such mediocrity?
  7. Dave Scarpa

    Dave Scarpa Producer

    Apr 8, 1999
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    Real Name:
    David Scarpa
    I might not know much about compression technique but if you look at the average New DVD and for this example we'll take MTF since it has seamless branching and a platitude of extras. The Movie itself with all the soundtracks weighs in about 5 gigs. My new version of Teacher's Pet, which I put on my HTPC's Drive ( I do this with all my new DVD's to watch them) was a bare bones disk and the movie was over 7.3 gigs. It looked fantastic btw. So a 1950's B&W film my not be as compressible as a 2005 release, but I reckon if they left off all those extra they could've raised the bitrate a tad.
  8. Eric_R.

    Eric_R. Stunt Coordinator

    Jan 2, 2004
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    The extended edition is the same thing like Ray with the pause then scene then pause then back to the movie. Who came up with this? Its pretty bad. Even the Alien3 scenes that were poorer than the real movie were put in seamlessly and worked fine.
  9. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

    Apr 24, 1999
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    I wonder if the separate Foolscreen version still has "the black bars" during the deleted scenes? [​IMG]
  10. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

    Jul 25, 2000
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    Real Name:



    Nothing I'd watch a second time. Not near as good as the first.

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