As the title implies, Meet the Fockers adds Greg's parents, Bernie and Roz Focker (Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand) to the mix. Bernie and Roz are as liberal as Jack is conservative. Bernie is a retired lawyer, comfortable as a middle-aged house husband who practices his new-found passion, Brazilian martial arts, every morning outside their Florida home. Roz is the breadwinner, but her profession is as unorthodox as Bernie's eccentricities: she's a sex therapist specializing in senior issues (her clientele consists of couples over sixty). Greg, after escaping the events depicted in the first film with Jack's approval of his marriage to Pam (but without his dignity), now must suffer a different set of humiliations. His parents' openness about intimate details of their lives, including Greg's youthful indiscretions, and Jack's repressive attitude toward the same issues, create friction between the two sets of parents, and within Greg, who this time, must find common ground between the two families and set a wedding date (he's refrained from settling on a date due to his anxieties about his parents). Jack has placed Greg on notice, noting that understanding Greg's background is key to understanding (and perhaps controlling) Greg's identity. Also added into the mix are Little Jack (Spencer and Bradley Pickren), Jack's infant grandson (his other daughter and son-in-law are missing in action from the sequel), and Isabel (Alanna Ubach), Greg's former nanny, now a caterer. Isabel's son, Jorge (Ray Santiago) bears an odd resemblance to one of the main characters (a situation which, of course, leads to misunderstandings, ill-conceived confessions, deception, and conflict).
Little Jack functions to add the occasional bit of scatological humor. He also functions as an indicator of Greg's potential parenting skills when he's left in Greg's care. Jack, as befits his conservative values, believes in the “strict father” model. He believes in discipline, self-reliance, and as he calls it, “self-soothing.” Bernie and Roz follow the “nurturing parent” model, as indicated by Bernie's decision to forego a promising legal career to raise Greg and his decision to dedicate a wall in his den to Greg's often unspectacular accomplishments. They also believe in constant affirmations of affection and intimacy. As Meet the Fockers unfolds, it becomes clear which parenting alternative Roach and his screenwriters prefer, and which alternative is exposed as potentially unhealthy (although, to their credit, both parenting models are satirized enthusiastically).
Cultural politics aside, Meet the Fockers begins to lose momentum at the midpoint, with the complications (and the jokes that arises from those complications) handed out by the screenwriters for the central character having little of the tension or conflict present in the first film, primarily because there's much less at stake in the second film. In the first film, Greg was motivated to please his prospective in-laws in order to receive approval for his marriage to Jack's daughter, with Pam following tradition, and requiring her father's approval before giving her own. In the sequel, the fate of Greg and Pam's relationship is only marginally in doubt, leaving the ensuing third-act complications falling short of the hilarious obstacles found in the original. There's little doubt, then, that Meet the Fockers will end with the inevitable reconciliation between the characters, the two families overcoming cultural, social, and even religious differences.
© Mel Valentin, 1st January, 2005
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