Meet the Fockers

 

When Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo) says, “I’m going to be Pamela Martha Focker! Yes, I know how that sounds!” it pretty much says it all about this sequel to the money-making machine, the 2000 Meet the Parents.

 

By now just about everyone who wanted to has seen this film starring Robert DeNero, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand and Blythe Danner, has done so. Pam and Greg (Stiller) accompany his parents, the Focker’s (DeNero and Danner), to Florida in an armored deluxe mobile home, to meet her parents, the Byrnes (Hoffman and Streisand). The Focker’s take their grandson along – supposedly as an excuse for Grandpa Focker to strap on and use his rubber breast set to feed the little guy. And so on and so forth go the gags, unlikely manufactured situations and body parts and functions double entendres that continue until the wedding.

 

Meet the Fockers is funny; you can’t help but laugh. And Hoffman and Streisand make a good acting team in this comedy which truly is so much ado about nothing.

 

I tend to mix up Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller because their movies are  pop entertainments; in other words, they are not about deep thoughts that keep you awake until 3:00 in the morning – nor are they funny enough to keep you laughing much beyond the parking lot. I am not trying to make a distinction between high and low culture here, I’m just observing that people like different kinds of movies.

 

At the end of the day, however, I tend to like Ben Stiller’s movies more than Sandler’s which play heavily and frequently on our need for occasional mindlessness – Spanglish being an impressive and notable exception for Sandler. 

 

The good thing about Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers is that they are films about parents who love their kids and want the best for them. This, the world can use. The rest – you decide.

In Good Company

Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid) is a 51-year old family man and ad executive for a national sports magazine. He is enjoying his success when a huge multinational media corporation buys the magazine and he is replaced by an upwardly mobile and successful executive from the cell phone division of the corporation, 26-year old, Carter Duryea (Topher Grace). Though Dan is not “let go” (the euphemism the corporation used instead of the offensive word “fired”), he is dismayed by the changes and wants to leave with all the people he hired. But his wife’s (Marg Helgenberger) pregnancy and his oldest daughter Alex’s (Scarlett Johansson) transfer to New York University from SUNY, mean he needs the money. So he stays.

 

Carter knows he is out of his depth but plunges ahead. His wife cannot endure his workaholic habits and divorces him. Carter becomes so desperate for some kind of life outside the office that when Dan unwittingly invites him home for dinner, the younger man readily accepts.

 

Carter and Alex become friendly, and then start an intense relationship. Then just when Carter and Dan start to get along well at the office, everything starts to unravel, beginning with Dan’s discovery that Carter and Alex are sleeping together.

 

But what is In Good Company really about? It’s about corporate greed and inhumanity and how individuals and families deal with it, react and respond to it. What I really liked was the part when Teddy-K (MalcolmMcDowell) the mogul, gives a speech about how a corporation is the new democracy, something that operates like a country. You know, held together by synergy. Dan speaks up and says that a democracy takes care of its people, corporations do not. Hear, hear. Like the 1987 film Wall Street and last year’s documentary The Corporation, the audience is very clearly being invited to reflect on the role of money in our personal lives – and how impersonal and inhuman capitalism is as an unstoppable force unless people decide to claim their humanity and morality.

 

In Good Company is funny and warm. Quaid, Grace and Johansson give engaging performances. The film calls our attention to the fact that while capitalism, “the corporation” is not going away, neither is our search for transcendent meaning in our lives and the need for family. If we want to lead meaningful lives, then it is up to us to give capitalism a conscience and make its function a means to an end, not an end in itself.