Thursday, April 21, 2005

A Fock(er)ing Disappointment


[Pic Courtesy IMDb]

This seems to be a time of disappointing sequels to likeable originals. After the gang of Ocean's 12, it is the turn of the Fockers to disappoint in Meet the Fockers, the sequel to the 2002 hit Meet the Parents. The hilarious original chronicled the travails of Ben Stiller, as he tried to endear himself to his fiance's father Robert De Niro, an ex-CIA agent. The sequel introduces us to Stiller's parents, the Fockers, played by Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand as Stiller and his fiance's family spend the weekend with their house.

Many films go in for a sequel based solely on the lure of money after the film becomes a bigger hit than expected. But they have already wrapped things up in the first installment and so have little material to deal with in the sequel (sequels like Men In Black II and Bridget Jones Diary 2 all fall in this category). So the sequels often feel unnecessary and end up being a rehash of things seen in the original. In theory, Meet the Fockers actually feels like it has enough material for a solid sequel. It revolves around Stiller's parents, who we never see in the first part, makes them wacky enough to be a complete contrast to the uptight De Niro and casts a couple of likeable and popular stars in the roles. So its surprising that the director still fails to mine anything funny out of this. The movie falls prey to 'sequelitis' i.e. it goes over the top, recycles old jokes, resorts to crude humor and overall, is rarely funny.

The best aspect of Meet the Parents(and for that matter, Analyze This) was that De Niro played it straight. He was funny because he was serious in the midst of all the chaos. He got the laughs without seeming to overtly play for them and the others got the laughs by playing off his seriousness. But here, De Niro is too over the top to be funny. As he wears artificial breasts or opens up the 'command center' in his RV, he begins to parody and ridicule himself and that just ain't funny.

None of the new material in Meet the Fockers is funny. It aims to get most of its laughs from the laidback, devil-may-care lifestyle of Hoffman and Streisand and that works for awhile. But with Streisand's occupation as a sex therapist, the only topic their jokes revolve around is sex. And so they get repetitive and stale after a while. Eventually, the best laughs in the film involve the youngest member of De Niro's family, his grandson. His strict training and his gestures are quite funny and the first word he utters gets the biggest laugh of the movie.

The Fockers are just not worth meeting!

19 Comments:

At 6:55 PM, Blogger Ram.C said...

samething applies to indian industry also.

take japanail kalyanraman, nanae varuvaen (neeya? 's sequel) ...and few others (which I couldn't recollect)

They were never able to deliver the punch delivered in the original.

samething applies to hollywood also..

exceptions are few like jaws, indian jones, rocky etc.,

 
At 9:07 PM, Anonymous Vijays said...

Rocky, Jaws?!!! - Are you kidding me?
Rocky 2 was a very substandard sequel. The less said about Jaws 2, the better..

 
At 11:39 PM, Anonymous ram said...

yes, i too think that De Niro made the mistake of going over the top in both this one and Analyze That...the only De Niro performance in recent years that I admired was his turn in "City By The Sea." he internalized a lot of emotions and turned in a performance of sustained intensity...i think De Niro, the "comedian" has become really over-exposed and predictable over the year...

reg. sequels, the ONLY sequel that i've liked as much as the original is The Godfather-ii...

 
At 8:24 AM, Anonymous Vijay said...

Deniro is the most overrarated actor in Hollywood history and I am glad his movies are bombing at the box office. His last memorable performance was probably 10-12 years back and you have to go a decadxe before that to find his next memorable performance and yet he gets away with bad acting and just collecting his paychecks in film after film. The guy cant do comedy to save his life. Its the situation and script that makes his films comical. Even in comedy movies he plays a serious guy or a wacko. And can anyone imagine Deniro doing a romance-based role? Yuck!

 
At 9:32 AM, Blogger packer said...

Terminator 2 might be the sequel
of all time.

 
At 10:00 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

vijay, i think de niro is great and i don't think he's overrated. his choice of movies recently has been crappy and that i think is why he's had no memorable movies of late. i've loved him in movies like 'untouchables', 'cape fear', etc. as ram pointed out, he was good in 'city by the sea' though IMO his last great performance was in 'Casino'. he's not versatile but nobody can do a bad guy quite like him.

packer, completely agree with u. I absolutely loved T2. 'Aliens', again a sequel by James Cameron, rocked too.

 
At 10:52 AM, Anonymous ram said...

yes, I think he was gr888888 in casino and goodfellas, two of the finest films of the 90s...there's this scene in Goodfellas where he coolly stares at Joe Pesci as they contemplate the murder of the wig-maker...and a scene in Casino where he fires a dumb casino worker (with high connections, which returns to bother him later) where you see De Niro, the BAD guy at work...yes, nobody plays a heavy better than him...

 
At 4:11 PM, Anonymous Vijay said...

" yes, I think he was gr888888 in casino and goodfellas, two of the finest films of the 90s."

and not co-incidentally both of them are by Scorcese who has a good working relationship with De Niro(Raging Bull, Taxi Driver etc.)and who manages to extract good performances out of most his stars(He made an actress out of Sharon Stone in Casino).Pesci was far better in Goodfellas than De Niro. De Niro is certainly not versatile and his facial expressions and the perpetual scowl he carries on his face is repeated in film after film. He plays a wacko well, thats about it.

Great actors elevate ordinary films (like Morgan Freeman) whereas De Niro needs a great director/script to squeeze any acting out of him.

 
At 4:47 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

"de niro is not versatile"

true, but i think that is true of most hollywood stars, especially the older ones. Its probably because each Hollywood movie sticks to one genre and there are enuf movies in each genre to allow actors to hone one particular skill. I can't imagine Hoffman as an over-the-top bad guy or Pacino as a lover-boy either. De Niro is great cos he is best at playing the bad guy.

On the other hand, each Indian movie is a mix of elements from so many genres that the actors have to be versatile to act even in 1 movie!

 
At 5:02 PM, Anonymous ram said...

i also think de niro has been successful (even if marginally) even when cast against type...two fine examples are "Awakenings" where he was memorable as one of the patients who'd gotten an "awakening" and also his impressive directorial effort, "A bronx tale" where Chazz Palminteri (the script-writer) played the gangster and De Niro played the father of the kid...of course, the story goes that Palminteri INSISTED on playing the gangster but regardless of that, i think de niro did well...

 
At 6:10 PM, Anonymous Vijays said...

To expand Ram's list, De Niro gave striking performances in 'Wag the dog' (as the spin doctor), 'Brazil' (Cameoed as the delightful and enigmatic Harry Tuttle),'the Deer Hunter' (as the unforgettable Vietnam war scarred Michael Vronsky)and 'Mission' (the Jesuit priest). These were roles in which he amply showcased his versatility and profound grasp of the medium.
My all-time De Niro favorite performances are Johnny Boy in 'Mean streets', Vito Corleone in 'GF 2' and David 'Noodles' Aaronson in 'OAATIA'

De Niro is and will always remain a class act and a performer par excellence...

 
At 4:48 PM, Anonymous Vijay said...

"I can't imagine Hoffman as an over-the-top bad guy or Pacino as a lover-boy either. "

Thats probably because you havent seen Pacino's "Frankie and Johny" where he plays a lover boy opposite Michelle Pfeiffer. Pacino is easily more versatile than De Niro who is just above average when acting outside Scorsese's movies.And even in Scorsese's movies he plays the same wacko guy or someone who has been mentally scarred. Deerhunter doesnt require anything dramatically different from Taxi Driver.

Dog day Afternoon, Sea of Love, Serpico, Scent of a Woman and many other films show the range of Al Pacino.

"true, but i think that is true of most hollywood stars, especially the older ones."

Again not true. In the same year 1989, Morgan Freeman pulled off three roles that demanded different shades - Glory, Lean on Me, Driving Miss Daisy. Also I have given examples above.

And for the few desis here who probably got their intro to DeNiro thru some internet site and who watched his movies already brainwashed that he was the greatest actor that ever lived all I can say is that they need to watch Marlon Brando or Morgan Freeman once in a while to find out how overrated De Niro is.

 
At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Vijay said...

And even when it comes to playing on screen villians or bad guys many have done better. For instance, Hopkins' "Hannibal" was a genre-bending performancefar better than the lame stuff De Niro came up in Cape Fear with his characteristic scowl. He owes his fame to Scorsese.

 
At 2:25 PM, Anonymous vic said...

you guys didn’t mention some of my fav sequels…

leone’s ‘for a few dollars more’… this sequel completely blows away ‘fistful of dollars’ and is easily the best of the trilogy

kurosawa’s ‘sanjuro’.. again I thought this sequel was much much better than the first ‘yojimbo’

and finally frankenheimer’s ‘french connection 2’… this is not better than, but I would say this matches friedkin’s original masterpiece

and on the topic of sequels/prequels - who else is super excited abt ‘d’?? … the prequel to ramu's ‘company’

victor

 
At 3:21 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

i have only seen 'for a few $ more' among the sequels u mention. Definitely better than 'fistful of $s' but at the time I saw it, i think i still preferred 'good, bad and ugly'. never seen sanjuro or yojimbo and french connection 1 or 2.

i loved 'company' but not all that excited about 'D'. for hindi movies i go more by cast and with all new or unknown(to me) faces, 'D' hasn't got my looking forward to it.

 
At 4:11 PM, Blogger Orange Fronkey said...

I kind of enjoyed this movie... Alot more than the first one...

=)

 
At 9:26 PM, Anonymous vic said...

I disagree w/ you bj, I think when it comes to ramu films… the more big names in the cast, the less realistic the film becomes

I think ‘satya’ is a perfect example… as the man said himself….

"The casting of any film should be true to the nature of the story. In the case of 'D', I wanted a face which the audience would have no expectations from. It would add to the novelty of the project. Films work in two ways - either the actor gives a film an identity through his image, or the other way around. In fact, I doubt 'Satya' would have been a hit if I had taken top actors. They wouldn't have looked believable in it."

and randeep looks like he has the stuff to make it big - after an ok debut in mira nair’s ‘monsoon wedding’, he has since, in the last few years, been acting in naseer shah’s stage troupe

now I am not saying this is guy is going to be spectacular, but if your private acting coach is the greatest actor in the country - then you should at least have some talent

and look at the other great discoveries from rgv… manoj in ‘satya’ and vivek in ‘company’

not to mention he is following in the foot steps of benegal and casting local stage actors to be in his films

and also ramu favs - yashpal sharma & sushant singh - are also in ‘d’

all in all, I predict that ‘d’ will top ‘company’

victor

 
At 11:19 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

merino, thats a first :) u're the only one I've heard so far to enjoy the sequel more :)

vic, don't disagree with u. i was simply talking about my criteria for selecting Hindi movies. Since I don't understand much Hindi and find it distracting to read every line of the subtitles, I usually select movies with big stars or thriller/horror flicks where the dialog isn't too important. Thats the reason i end up watching movies like 'Jurm', 'Insaan' and 'Vaastu Shaastra'!

 
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