If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong, but Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers seemed to do everything right about everything going wrong. They hit a familiar chord with family-oriented audiences with good ol’ values. And they were dirty about it. Both were hits in theaters and on home video, and now they’ve been erected in high-definition. It’s time once again to meet the parents and the Fockers. Welcome home. My full review is after the jump.
In the franchise opener, Meet the Parents, Greg Focker is completely in love with Pam Byrnes and views their upcoming trip to her parents’ house on Long Island, where her sister is to be married during the weekend, as a perfect opportunity to ask her to marry him. But once Greg is introduced to Pam’s parents, things plummet towards hell at an increasing rate. Pam’s father, Jack, takes an instant and obvious dislike to his daughter’s boyfriend, ridiculing him for his job as a nurse and generally making Greg painfully aware of his existence as an outsider. Things end up going from bad to worse with Greg incurring the wrath of both Pam’s family and nearly destroying the wedding (and his relationship with Pam) in the process.
Meet the Parents is a prime product of a director, writer and cast that just fit perfectly. On paper, it may have not even looked that good. Pairing a serious dramatic actor with a comedian like Ben Stiller may have sounded like a risk. Yet they made a great match on-screen. When reservation is required, each actor is able to offer it seamlessly. When the stakes are raised, they rise to the challenge. You don’t have anyone in the cast stepping out of the characters that were created for each one of them. This allows the comedy to easily and freely flow. You really get the sense every person in the cast is who they say they are.
This is a movie about family matters where the audience truly can say that what they’re watching is a family. The story doesn’t have strange relationships or situations that aren’t manageable. I attribute the reason for this to director Jay Roach. He nicely kept the final product grounded within its context. He did the same thing with the Austin Powers franchise. No matter what happens in Meet The Parents that would sound ridiculous in any other context or if you said it yourself, the audience never becomes aware of it. It’s this lack of awkward moments that allows Meet the Parents to strike a subtle connection with the audience and have complete liberal freedom to do whatever.
When we catch-up with the Meet the Parents clan in Meet the Fockers, Greg Focker has already won the approval of Jack and Dina Byrnes to marry their daughter Pam. But after clearing the first hurdle, now Greg has to face the even bigger challenge of introducing the conservative Byrnes family to his folks, a free-spirited sex therapist, Roz, and open-minded Bernie, both of which blend with Pam’s parents not quite as easily as Greg did (no small task, to say the least).
Meet the Fockers did two things in 2004, four years after its predecessor: it grew both horizontally and vertically, like other things in the mind of Greg’s mother and sex-therapist. Fockers wanted to expand the family of the franchise and raise the wackiness across the board. Barbara Streisand and Dustin Hoffman are delightful additions to the cast of this film. It was a successful move to bring in bigger names to match the other side of the spectrum we already knew, Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro.
I think the biggest problem with this movie, if you have any real problem with it, is in its vertical growth. For instance, though Jack Byrnes, played by Robert De Niro, was revealed to be a retired C.I.A. agent in Meet the Parents, the out-of-the ordinary aspect of this went unnoticed. In Meet the Fockers, you now have a retired C.I.A. agent with his own hidden command centre in his recreational vehicle. It’s with that kind of moment that things get awkward. It could’ve been a lot worse had this movie been passed onto new talent behind the camera, unable to resist the opportunity to jam the movie with crazy stunts and visuals. Jay Roach didn’t push the envelope of Barbara Streisand’s character being a sex therapist. Many other directors, perhaps young ones, would not have allowed that to pass. They may consider this movie a lost opportunity in that respect. Nonetheless, aside from those folks, you’ll enjoy watching the Byrnes visit Greg’s folks in Fockers.
Coincidentally enough, these Blu-rays were released not too long before the theatrical release of Little Fockers. You’re right, it was no coincidence. They were obviously released to coincide with it. That’s marketing for you. That said, Parents comes loaded with additional features.
Spotlight On Location hands you a standard behind-the-scenes look at production. Deleted Scenes and Outtakes are self-explanatory. You’ll probably find more joy with the Outtakes of Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro, though. De Niro Unplugged lets you see Robert De Niro showcase his singing. You can judge whether it’s good or not yourself. That’s just another bonus of buying this Blu-ray. The Truth About Lying educates you about how a polygraph really works. You’ll come out as an expert. Silly Cat Tricks profiles the training that went into helping Jinx pull off his acting. It’ll help you appreciate the time and patience required to train Hollywood’s working animals.
Jay Roach: A Director’s Profile is an extremely short look at the director and not quite worth your time. Feature Commentaries With Cast And Crew is a nice collection for any fan of commentaries. It really reveals a wealth of information about the production from director Jay Roach and producer Jane Rosenthal, along with what is essentially a delightful conversation between Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller that really lets you know this was a pair made in heaven from a casting point-of-view.
This Blu-ray features a respectable amount of bonus material to browse through. You’d think bigger budgeted films with plenty of CGI always have an easier hand at creating bonus features and yet sometimes they even fail at it. This film, of course, was by no means at the high end of production budgets, but a solid effort was given for this release. It even includes a theatrical trailer for the film. I know it’s not usually a must-have, but I’m always confused when it’s not included. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to just fill the disc with everything you got? I especially don’t understand not including trailers with home video releases that barely have any bonus features to offer in the first place. If you’ve got ‘em, why not include ‘em?
Meet the Fockers, unlike many sequels themselves, is not an entire repeat when it comes to the additional features of the Blu-ray. Deleted Scenes extends some scenes of conflict and laughs. In contrast to the previous Blu-ray, Outtakes was renamed Bloopers for Fockers. This is a long collection of flubbed lines and giggles, letting you in on the human side of filmmaking. Inside The Litter Box: Behind-The-Scenes With Jinx The Cat isolates the reactions of cast and crew to Jinx. The Manary Gland showcases the design and execution of the prop used in the story.
Focker Family Portrait has Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand and Ben Stiller chatting about their thoughts and how they came to join this project. The Adventures Of A Baby Wrangler profiles Rhonda Sherman’s experience with coordinating the young actors of the film, and getting them to deal with the cast and cameras. I believe this is the counterpart to the Silly Hat Tricks feature on the Parents Blu-ray. A cat has just been replaced by kids. Typical. Matt Lauer Meets the Fockers is an interview segment with the Today host sitting down with the cast to discuss the film.
Feature Commentary with director Jay Roach and editor/co-producer Jon Poll is a discussion between Roach and Poll, and comments on the mechanics of the comedy and story. Once again, it’s a nice collection that compliments Fockers and even the additional features on the Parents Blu-ray, minus a theatrical trailer on this one. See, once again, why include it with the first, but not the sequel? Both releases also include BD-Live access and pocket Blu capabilities to use with qualifying portable media devices. Neither may be your cup of tea or neither may be just at this point in time, but it’s nice to see the producers of these releases making a good technological push forward to expand the abilities of Blu-ray into the mainstream.