For an industry that seems hell-bent on playing it safe, we can hardly stamp our feet in outrage that the film financers that be have traded another tidy dose of cash for another tidy dose of Focker entertainment. Expectations should already be low, given the embarrassingly cheap humour of its prequel Meet The Fockers. But despite the shameless inanity of this next instalment, there are enough familiar faces to glow at, and enough chuckle-some scenarios to stop you wailing with indignation.
The test of wills continues between Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) and Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) when the former CIA agent and mercilessly critical father-in-law suffers a minor heart attack in his own basement. The competent former spy staves off a hospital scene by defibrillating himself with his own lie-detecting machine; but with his heart at risk, so too is his standing as Patriarch of the family. So he does what any respectable grandfather would do: asks his son in law take over the mantle when his own clock stops ticking, and truly become the ‘God-Focker’ of the family (a turn of phrase so cheesy that even Greg has to balk at it).
So begins Greg’s journey (of sorts) to decide whether he wants this cringe-some accolade, and whether he can even live up to his tightly wound father-in-law’s wishes. With this jagged spool of a story pulling together it’s assortment of frayed threads, we weave through a situational comedy that moves with an enjoyable rhythm, even while there is nothing in particular we are waiting to see.
The biggest threat might be the crazy pharmaceutical babe Jessica Alba as ‘Andy Garcia’ (the joke is played out severally) who persuades Greg to take on a job moonlighting a new drug for penile dysfunction. Sure enough, Andy’s incredibly provocative manner, coupled with a complete disregard for Greg’s marital status, takes Lord Focker himself into very risky territory. Much to the gimlet-eyed scrutiny of snooping Jack.
Meanwhile Pam’s lovelorn ex (Owen Wilson) is thrown into the mix, offering an eccentric blend of misguided buddhism, and letharian teachings. The children (Little Focker’s) hardly even come into it, except to remind us that their birthday party beckons, or to dramatise their parents wishes for them to attend the worringly perfect ‘Young Human School’.
The humour is light and post-modern at best, like when the Head Mistress of the Early Human School responds to a Stiller gag with, ‘Interesting joke, though I do enjoy levity in moments of misunderstanding!’ Other scenes echo the suburban calamity of Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm. One part involving a stern staring match between De-Niro and Stiller could well be a nod towards the hit series.
But while the endearing blunders and bickerings unfold with a bombast akin to Arrested Development, our amusement is often halted by cheap fart gags, and one instance of puke-in-the-face. Then again, what were we expecting? Sometimes it’s nice to see a troupe of inept builders digging a gigantic pit, for no other reason than for someone to fall into it face first later on. If only life were so predictable.