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Learn About WASP, Latin & Jewish Stereotypes in “Meet the Fockers”

“Meet the Fockers” was released Dec 22, 2004. The film’s World-wide gross was $516,642,939.
January 30, 2009 By Mario in


So after the laugh-riot that was Meet The Parents, as with many financially successful movies, the producers decided to make a sequel. Thankfully, director Jay Roach, and stars Robert de Niro, Ben Stiller, Blythe Danner and Teri Polo have returned for part 2, joined by Dustin Hoffmann and Barbra Streisand.

In Meet The Fockers (2004), we get the chance to meet the couple that decided to name their only son Gaylord Focker. The story is rather simple: Greg (Gaylord) accompanied by fiancé, Pam and his future in-laws visit the Fockers, Bernie and Roz, who live in Coconut Grove, prior to the wedding. All of them drive down to Florida in Jack’s luxury RV. This RV is a cross between a tank and a submarine, equipped with the latest gadgets worthy of any former CIA man.

Conservatives And Liberals Clash In Coconut Grove

Meet The Fockers seemed to correlate with real-life cultural war events. The year of it’s release, 2004, was the year Dubya got re-elected. The liberal vs. conservative narrative plays out well in MTF. Jack Byrnes continues being as WASP-ish and tight-ass as in Meet The Parents, ever suspicious that Greg is hiding secrets from him (the man seems to live in 1955). The elder Fockers are former hippies dressed in flowery clothes who must be hardcore environmentalists. Their home on Focker Isle, is beautiful but lacks air conditioning and has an un-trustworthy sewage system. The Focker’s pet chihuahua Moses, enjoys humping everything in sight (a gag I’ve seen in several other movies). Moses and Jinx, the Byrnes’ evil cat, provide a few memorable scenes.

Bernie Focker (Hoffamnn) is an attorney, who stopped practicing law after his son’s birth and became a stay-at-home dad, much to Jack’s dismay. He practices what he calls “Capoeira”, but resembles more Billy Blanks’ Tae-Bo program for seniors. He’s also a fan of “chimichangas”, which make him fart a lot. Roz Focker (Streisand) is a sex therapist for senior citizens, who also keeps a large amount of erotic art around the house possibly bought from Miami Beach’s famous sex museum.

The Fockers are everything Jacks dislikes; hence this creates numerous comedic situations. Greg, Pam and Dina, meanwhile take a backseat and serve more as intermediaries. Still Jack seems to enjoy one thing: the extreme openness displayed by the Fockers, which don’t hesitate to reveal embarrassing information of Greg’s childhood and adolescence (and you thought your parents were a source of shame). Bernie keeps a Wall of Gaylord which shows Greg’s dubious achievement (9th place ribbons, huh?) They also inform everyone of how Greg almost had a botched circumcision at his bris.

In a side-story, the Byrnes bring along little 1-year old Jack, son of Debbie Byrnes, the same Debbie that got her nose busted thanks to Greg in Meet The Fockers (sadly the actress that played Debbie, Nicole DeHuff, passed away in 2005 due to complications from pneumonia).

Jack is training the toddler to be a future CIA recruit with cutting edge child-rearing methods. Thanks to these, the baby is already able to communicate through several hand signs. Jack also uses the Ferber Method, which supposedly consists of letting the child cry a lot when left alone in order to self-soothe. The Focker are outraged at Jack’s methods. They believe in Benjamin Spock-esque methods where a child is coddled incessantly. The Fockers gave Greg (or little Gay) all the love possible which is what later made him such a great nurse. Oddly enough, Jack uses a man-boob device in order to breast-feed Little Jack.

Bring Out The Token Latinos

Viewers also meet Isabel Villalobos, the Focker’s Carmen Miranda-inspired former maid, to whom Greg lost his virginity at 19. Isabel’s son, Jorge, is a mechanical genius who fixes a few damages on the Byrnes’ trailer. I couldn’t help notice that the only Hispanic characters in the movie are basically a servant and a mechanic. I expected more Hispanic characters for a movie based in Miami, hopefully non-stereotypical too.  Well, at least those rico-suave type Ricky Martin wannabes didn’t show up.

So how does this movie connect to Miami? Except for interior scenes a good amount of scenes were filmed in South Florida. When Greg and the Byrnes arrive, we see shots of Miami Beach, Downtown and the Everglades. Oddly, the Byrnes’ RV is first shown crossing the Rickenbacker Causeway and in the next shot they’re on Overseas Highway in the Keys.

The Focker’s island house is obviously in the Keys, but we’re told this is Coconut Grove, a perfect spot for former hippies and artists (at least they got that right). As with many South Floridians and transplants, the Fockers are extremely tanned (Dustin Hoffmann looked kind of buff if you ask me).  With the over abundance of Jewish senior citizens, I wonder if the producers confused Palm Beach or Sunny Isles with the Grove (wouldn’t be the first time). In one particular scene, Roz takes Pam and Dina shopping to the BCBG’s on Lincoln Road. The viewers are told this is still in the Grove, supposedly Coco Walk and MayFair.

What Is A Fried Mexican Burrito Doing In Miami?

As mentioned earlier, Bernie loves chimichangas, which give him bad gas. According to Wikipedia, a chimichanga is a dish popular in Tex-Mex cuisine, a probable cousin of the burrito. I’ve never eaten a chimichanga, then again I don’t frequent Mexican restaurants. Being half-Colombian, I have tasted chimichurri sauce, which is applied to Colombian empanadas.

The engagement party thrown by the Fockers for Greg and Pam, takes place in Monty’s on the Bay, which actually IS in the Grove area. This party includes Greg’s confessional scene which is probably the most hilarious scene in the whole movie.

Meet the Fockers - The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Meet The Fockers starts off strong and full of potential. Towards the end, it becomes rather predictable. While not as funny as it’s earlier sequel, Meet The Fockers still has plenty of merits. This film is a comedy and I doubt there are many real life comparisons. The Fockers and Byrnes must exaggerate their attitudes in order to obtain laughs.

The Good: Dustin Hoffman basically steals this movie.  His Bernie has incredible charisma as the overly loving and emotional dad. Streisand is excellent as a sex therapist who hopes to talk about sexual matters with her son.

Likewise, Hoffmann and Streisand had excellent on-screen chemistry.

The bad: De Niro’s Jack tries too hard to be the tight-ass and ogre. Stiller’s Greg, while less disaster-prone than before, plays the part of the peace negotiator between Jack and the Fockers. Somehow, stiller isn’t as funny when he is not playing the role of perpetual victim. Blythe Danner and Teri Polo, besides their beauty, don’t add much with their roles.

Throughout the film, I noticed many similarities between Meet The Fockers and the 1996 version of The Birdcage: we have young couple getting married, parents are opposites. His are ultra-liberal Jews, hers are conservative WASPs. Based in Miami, presence of overly-sexualized Hispanic maids.

What happened to originality? But what worries me the most is that producers are filming a third installment in the series, Little Fockers. I’m not sure if the family clash will provide enough material.

Related Categories: Movie Reviews

See more articles by Mario

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