Saturday, January 29, 2005

Meet The Fockers

Meet The Fockers isn't much of a movie -- its really not much more than an extended episode of a middling sitcom -- but it has something very special: A cast of actors with marvelous, quirky faces. The sixtyish foursome at its center -- Robert De Niro, Blythe Danner, Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand -- are glorious in their mature, wrinkled, slightly sagging distinctiveness. And even Ben Stiller and Teri Polo, as the beleaguered young couple faced with introducing their very different families prior to their weeking, have more character in their angular faces than just about any other film actors their age.
I didn't much care for Manohla Dargis's article on plastic surgery on last Sunday's Arts & Leisure front page in The New York Times. I thought she was unnecessarily timid in talking about the actors who have destroyed their images in vain efforts to remain youthful. But the actors in this film prove Dargis's point. They look good, but they don't look 25, and they don't seem to be bothered by that. They simply look like real people, if a bit better than most of us.
Some of the lustrous seniors even give performances here. Dustin Hoffman is pretty marvelous as a left-wing lawyer turned stay-at-home dad, and Barbra Streisand matches him in good humor as a free-spirited sex therapist for seniors. Blythe Danner is a beautifully modulated and effective actress. Out of the seniors, only Robert De Niro, playing a boring stiff, fails to shine. His character was funny enough in its first outing, 2002's Meet The Parents, but he has no new sides, no colors and thus ends up holding no interest.
Stiller and Polo find themselves in a similar bind; they're playing exactly the same characters, with pretty much exactly the same reactions as they did the first time around. What's the point?
But this painless if mediocre comedy has become an enormous hit, and so I would imagine we will get another sequel when the next generation of Fockers hits the street. And that will be okay if Hoffman, Streisand and Danner can be around to welcome it to the world.