'Meet the Parents,' a mild but still pretty offensive comedy with Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro, was a surprise box office sensation when it was released in 2000, leading subsequently to preparations for a sequel. Should have been easy enough, right? Just put the same characters in similarly awkward positions and watch them squirm. This process was steam-lined further by having virtually the entire team, both creatively and in front of the camera, return for a second go-around.
But things stalled, and moved in fits and starts. The sequel wasn't released until 4 years later, with the ingenious premise that, instead of focusing on Teri Polo's parents from the first film (played by De Niro and Blythe Danner), we'd visit Ben Stiller's parents – hence the title: 'Meet the Fockers.'
The admittedly delicious casting of Barbara Streisand and Dustin Hoffman as Stiller's hippie dippy parents was a stroke of genius. But the association of "genius" and 'Meet the Fockers' begins and ends there. I saw the movie in theaters when it came out, probably because of the firestorm of hype that surrounded it, but rewatching it felt like a chore. The things that seemed mildly amusing then were now eye-rolling in their stupidity.
The basic conceit of the sequel is that Ben Stiller is traveling with his soon-to-be-wife Teri Polo and her parents (De Niro and Danner) on an RV road trip to visit his parents. If you'll remember from the first film, De Niro is a hard-ass and a former CIA Agent, so there's a lot of stuff that involves him being uptight. Hilarious, I know. The cat from the original film, Jinx, is also onboard the RV (for some reason). Harkening back to the earlier film, the cat can flush the toilet. So if you're wondering if Dustin Hoffman's pint-sized Chihuahua will have a run-in with the cat, wherein the cat flushes the dog down the toilet, well, you my friend are in for a treat.
Besides that, there isn't a whole lot to enjoy. I was struck this time around by how weird it is that Ben Stiller was supposedly brought up by these incredibly loosey goosey parents, yet he himself is a total uptight dweeb. What gives? Also what's really crazy is that a lot of the second movie concerns itself with a young child, in this case Ben Stiller and Teri Polo's nephew, who, again, is a part of this road trip for reasons I can't entirely understand (even if they were explained). So you have De Niro and his wife reacting to the outrageous eploits of Streisand and Hoffman (Streisand teaches a sex class for old folks); you have everyone reacting to a baby (and the baby reacting to everyone); and you have a cat flushing a dog down a toilet. Ah, comedy!
One of the weirder subplots in the movie is De Niro becoming suspicious that Stiller has illegitimately fathered a child a number of years ago. First off – who cares? What decade is this?! Secondly, it's just lazy plotting. It's the kind of broad silliness that the movie often falls back on, but it doesn't make it any less annoying or trite.
In the end, though, as the old saying goes, money walks and bullshit talks. And people (like myself) may have talked a lot of bullshit, but the movie ended up making more than $500 million worldwide, with yet another sequel released at the end of 2010. If you made the mistake of seeing the first sequel once, you don't need to make the mistake again by watching this on Blu-ray. Ick.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Meet the Fockers' comes to high-definition on a 25GB Blu-ray disc that is enhanced with BD-Live, mostly for social networking features and something that allows you to control your Blu-ray through your Blackberry or iPhone. The disc is Region A locked.
I'm not sure what happened with the VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer (aspect ratio: 1.85:1) but I suspect it's due to the fact that they tried to squeeze everything onto a 25GB disc. (This is purely conjecture, people.)
But whatever happened, we're left to pay the price. Before we talk about the technical issues with the video, we should at least talk about what's good – colors are generally quite sharp and strong, and skin tones look realistic and warm. This is a big budget studio comedy, so everything is terribly over-lit and already plastic-looking. But as far as the fundamentals, the video is solid.
The fact is, though, that it is riddled (and I do mean riddled) with glitchy technical screw-ups. This has it all – halos, edge enhancement, aliasing. And it's not just a moment here or there, it's in virtually every scene. It's almost unfathomable to think of a big studio release like this, especially one timed to coincide with a new theatrical installment, being this bogged down problems, but it is. Buyer beware – the small improvements in the video quality don't outweight the glaring (sometimes literally) issues.
Faring slightly better is the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix.
'Meet the Fockers' is a dialogue-focused comedy, so much of the action is up front and center. There are some surround sound flourishes, to be sure (there's a fair amount of mayhem) – when the splash of blue RV toilet fluid flies towards Ben Stiller, you really feel its jutting slush – but these moments are few and far between.
That said, there's not a lot wrong with this audio mix. Dialogue always sounds crisp and clear and well prioritized, which is paramount for this kind of movie and this kind of release.
I wasn't expecting this mix to blow me away and, honestly, it didn't. But that's okay. It did what it was supposed to do, and that was that. I do wonder if the lack of surround activity has anything to do with the smaller size of the disc (again: conjecture).
There are also French DTS 5.1 and Spanish DTS 5.1 mixes and subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish.
All of the special features here have been on a previous 'Meet the Fockers' DVD edition (the "Blu-ray exclusives" are the disc being BD-Live ready and "pocket BLU," which allows you to control your disc via your handheld device). And all of the special features are in standard definition, typical of DVD-to-Blu-ray ports.
'Meet the Fockers,' like many of the actors in the cast, is old and tired, possibly just phoning it in for a payday. It's a warmed over retread of the "hey, let's make people squirm" formula that inexplicably made the first movie a box office smash. Except this time things are even queasier and less funny. Even if you were a fan of the film, I'd find it hard to recommend this Blu-ray disc. The video transfer is an absolute mess, the audio mix is workmanlike at best, and the special features have already been exhibited on the previous DVD. There's nothing new here and rewatching this dreadful film will only make you hate it more. Skip please it.