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Meet the Fockers (2004)

Starring Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo

Directed by Jay Roach

Screenplay by Jim Herzfeld and John Hamburg

Story by Jim Herzfeld and Marc Hyman

Tribeca Productions

Rated PG-13


Nursing rating 1 1/2 stars

Rating guide:
excellent = 4 stars; good = 3 stars;
fair = 2 stars, poor = 1 star

Artistic rating 2 stars

Meet the Fockers photo"Meet the Fockers," the sequel to "Meet the Parents," has a scene in which demanding ex-CIA agent Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) cautions future son-in-law and nurse Gaylord Focker (Ben Stiller) not to "infantilize" Jack's infant grandson. The movie itself cheerfully fails to heed this advice, dominated as it is by puerile body humor and uninspired physical gags. This artistic decline seems to infect the film's limited treatment of nursing. Whereas the funny original made a serious effort to undermine Jack's "male nurse" stereotypes, the sequel shows Jack why it's OK to be a nurse generally, even if it is a job for the mediocre and unambitious.

Not even Dustin Hoffman, playing Gaylord's father, can rescue a movie whose central joke is how funny the lead character's name is ("Focker," get it? "Gaylord Focker!" ha ha! and his cousins "Randy and Orny!" ha ha! that's focked up, dude!). The basic set-up is that Gaylord, Greg to his friends, has finally earned a place within the severe, conservative Jack's "circle of trust." So he will soon be able to marry Jack's daughter Pam (Teri Polo), provided that all goes well at a weekend get-together at "Focker Isle" in Florida, where the Byrnes will finally meet Greg's parents Bernie and Roz (Barbra Streisand). Oh--did we mention that Bernie is a touchy-feely stay-at-home dad and lawyer, and Roz is a sex therapist, and they're basically a couple of loopy Hollywood liberals? Guess what happens when they meet Jack! And guess who teaches who the value of opening up and caring for others, as opposed to cold, manipulative aggression!

Actually, it's not that bad, especially if you're in a light-hearted (and -headed) mood. It is a great cast, Hoffman's nebbish intensity can be funny, and some scenes work well enough, such as Greg's attempt to provide solo child care to his future nephew, after which Jack returns to find the infant watching the gangsta gospel "Scarface" with his hands literally glued to a partially empty liquor bottle. And there is a nice little religious tolerance message, as the WASP-y Byrnes ultimately bond with the Jewish Fockers (Jewish Fockers! ha ha!).

Possibly the basic concept, fresh and amusing in "Meet the Parents," just couldn't sustain more than one film. But given how much money "Meet the Fockers" has already made--grossing over $200 million in its first three weeks in the US alone--get ready for the third installment.

Meet the Fockers photoThe sequel is less explicitly about Greg's status as a nurse. He remains a positive character, loving and tolerant, though no more able to stand up to Jack. Greg's parents mostly handle that here (no one really messes with Barbra). But Greg is also less klutzy and more athletic. And I wouldn't quibble much with Jack's showing his grandson a flashcard of a female nurse in an old-fashioned nursing dress, telling Greg that was the only gender available, though we could have supplied a helpful Male Nurse Action Figure, had we been asked.

A little more troubling is the initial scene, in which Greg, apparently a staff nurse now on a labor & delivery floor, delivers his first baby at the Chicago hospital where he works. The scene features Greg frantically asking a fellow nurse to get a physician for the impending delivery. Although it appears that the delivery (not shown) goes well, the successful result has something of a miraculous air. It's possible that Greg is relatively new to labor and delivery. But the focus is obviously on the limits of nursing practice, when we feel confident that experienced L&D staff nurses have delivered many babies without panic. And of course, certified nurse midwives have expertly delivered millions of babies without the need of any physician.

Most problematic is the film's implication that nursing is for people who are good-hearted but not particularly ambitious or talented. When Greg and the Byrnes first arrive at the Fockers' house, Bernie proudly displays a "Wall of Gaylord," which celebrates his beloved son's past achievements. The Wall seems to consist mainly of certificates of completion and awards for ninth place finishes. Greg's parents explain that they never pushed Greg too hard to achieve, because it was more important that he become a good, loving person. Jack does more than smirk and note that competition has been a critical element in keeping America strong; at a tense moment later, he sneers at this celebration of Greg's "mediocrity."

Though the film is not endorsing Jack's views, it does regard nursing as a good vehicle to show that the heart matters as much as, or more than, the mind. Nurses may not be the sharpest tacks in the bunch, it's saying, but they are the nicest, bestest people ever. Of course, it's not that being good-hearted isn't important, or that it's wise to value intellect or competition over all else. It's just that the inaccurate stereotype that nursing is for people who are nice but kinda slow has held the profession back for decades. Actually, many nursing scholars work at the forefront of modern health care research, where ambition and high achievement are obviously critical.

However good-natured and intermittently amusing "Meet the Fockers" itself may be, it finishes in about ninth place. We hope it takes its rightful place on the Wall of Fockers.

Reviewed by Harry Jacobs Summers
Nursing Editor: Sandy Summers, MSN, MPH, RN
Reviewed January 12, 2005

Also see our reviews of:

  Nursing rating Artistic rating

Rating guide:
excellent = 4 stars; good = 3 stars;
fair = 2 stars, poor = 1 star

Meet the Parents 3 stars 3 stars
Little Fockers 3 stars 2 stars

The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board Members or Advisory Panel of The Truth About Nursing.

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