The Fockers (snigger) are just the kind of loved-up liberals Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) despises. In an inspired move, they’re played by Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand: he’s the tactile, chatty, stay-at-home dad, she’s the lusty, hippy sex therapist. Both imbue their characters with warmth and credibility as well as humour, though the last remains formulaic. As in ‘American Pie’, comic set-pieces begin with small mishaps and build into deeply embarrassing scenarios: a dog flushed down a toilet or mother Focker ‘riding’ uptight Jack during over-enthusiastic massage.
The message, naturally, is that Jack needs to loosen up, but while his wife’s emotional journey is plausible, his is not. Though a necessary comic foil, he’s the least convincing character: at best a stereotype, at worst a vehicle for visual gags that don’t fit (would the macho Jack of the first film really don fake breasts to feed milk to his grandson?). Most jokes, however, are as funny as they’re squirmily predictable, making the film reliable genre fare. While it doesn’t stretch itself, the familiar humour and likeable performances should have fans, at least, welcoming the Fockers with open arms.