Friday, February 11, 2005

Focking off

I’m off to Toronto on Sunday morning so here’s something to read about Meet The Fockers. Read it slowly, there’ll be nothing new on here for week. Toodle pip…

Ben Stiller’s life is easy; think of a dumb plotline, make it dumber, point camera and shoot. For this read Dodgeball, Zoolander, Starsky and Hutch and his cameo as the anchor of the Spanish language channel in Anchorman (“Ben, put this moustache on and do something stupid for a bit”). He’s not trying to satirise or be clever or win Oscars although presumably he’ll get to a point as Spielberg and Tom Hanks did where he’ll want to be taken seriously and we’ll all hate him for it.

The mistake that was made in Meet The Parents was that he was put on a platform with Robert De Nero. This raised expectations; you expect a De Nero film to deliver something a little smarter. It was a half decent set piece, hapless goon meets uptight father of girlfriend and endures endless contrived mishaps. Maybe De Nero was too big for the film, or more likely they spoiled the simplicity of the concept with the De Nero as CIA agent subplot. It was garbage.

Meet The Fockers should be an even bigger bomb. Whilst playing down the CIA thing (though not completely, it’s just not needed) they treble the gravitas with by introducing Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand as Gaylord Focker’s parents. Both have weighty reputations for taking themselves terribly seriously (see Hoffman in I Heart Huckabees). As “Holly Hunter” says in Team America – “As actors, we have a responsibility to read things in the newspaper and then repeat them as our own opinions”. The problem with big stars is they have big brands to maintain, which means being terribly clever about everything.

So the formulae stinks – poor previous film, stupid plot in itself and enough weighty reputations to sink a battleship full of elephants. But director Jay Roach, presumably introduced Hoffman and Streisand to Stiller and challenged them to out-stupid him. Which they do, they are both brilliantly daft. If they’d cut out the CIA stuff (De Nero has a hi-tech investigation lab in the base of his mobile home, sigh) there’s a risk it would be the best comedy of the year.


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