Dir: Jay Roach. US. 2004.114mins.

Despite the welcomeaddition of Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand for this sequel to surpriseworldwide hit Meet The Parents, getting to know the Fockers turns out tobe less fun than meeting the original folks was four years ago.

The sequel - which alsoreunites Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller and other members of the Meet TheParents cast - goes more consistently for broad laughs than its predecessordid and probably delivers them often enough to satisfy an audience primed bythe theatrical, TV and video success of the original film. But the comedy thistime isn't as organic nor as slyly funny, and the sequel, even if it does aswell at the box office, may not have the longevity of the original.

Universal opens Meet The Fockersin the US - where the original grossed $166.2m in the autumn of 2000 - thisweek, and though there will be plenty of competition at the box office the newfilm should work well as an undemanding, Christmas weekend comedy. Hoffman andStreisand will certainly pull in older audiences and, after his success thisyear with Dodgeball and Starsky And Hutch, Stiller should drawplenty of younger moviegoers.

DreamWorks/UIP handleinternational distribution, with most openings falling in January and February.The original film did nearly as well internationally as domestically and withthe cast additions and Stiller's increased star power a similar feat may bepossible this time out.

The script by Jim Herzfeldand John Hamburg, two of the original's four co-writers, finds Greg Focker(Stiller) and Pam Byrnes (Polo) planning for the wedding they agreed on at theend of the first film. Before the big day, however, the couple is taking Pam'sdaunting dad Jack (De Niro) and submissive mum Dina (Danner) to spend a weekendat the Florida home of Greg's parents.

The free-spirited Fockersare a kind of mirror image of the up-tight Byrnes: Bernie (Hoffman) is aliberal lawyer turned househusband and Roz (Streisand) is a sex counsellor tothe elderly. They even have a randy little dog to play counterpart to theByrnes' prissy cat. The parents' personality clash only gets worse when ex-CIAagent Jack discovers what he thinks is his future son-in-law's dark familysecret.

In the first film, directorJay Roach (best known for the Austin Powers movies) skilfully mixed physicalcomedy with Greg's agonising and very funny attempts to ingratiate himself withJack. Here, while Greg gets to agonize anew, this time about his own parents,Roach makes less use of threatening looks and awkward silences and movesswiftly on to the more basic and physical stuff.

Mild sex humour plays a bigpart in the proceedings: the Fockers love to talk about their son's teenageadventures and Jack comes equipped with a fake woman's breast for the benefitof his baby grandson, who is also making the trip to Florida (though for novery clear reason other than to provide comic fodder). The Fockers' name, usedsparingly in the first film, is the subject of an endless string of jokes.

Many of the sequel'sset-pieces are variations on gags from the first film: there's a football gameinstead of a volleyball game, a mealtime disaster with a different twist and atruth serum trip instead of a lie detector test. The end credits sequence,meanwhile, once again makes use of one of Jack's hidden cameras.

Hoffman appears to be havinglots of fun doing a comic turn that recalls his recent appearance in I HeartHuckabees. The performance is occasionally amusing and quite endearing, butit also sometimes feels forced.

Streisand, who hasn't actedon screen since 1996's The Mirror Has Two Faces, is impressively relaxedin her role and provides the film with maybe its biggest asset.

The returning cast membersdo solid work, though Stiller - curiously, given his rising status - is lesscentral to the comedy this time around. Randy Newman contributes a couple ofso-so songs to bookend the story.

Prod cos: Tribeca Prods, Everyman Pics
US dist:
Universal Pictures
Int'l dist:
DreamWorks Pics/UIP
Exec prods:
Nancy Tenenbaum, Amy Sayres
Prods: Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro, Jay Roach
Jim Herzfeld, John Hamburg
John Schwartzman
Prod des:
Rusty Smith
Jon Poll, Lee Haxall
Cost des:
Carol Ramsey
Randy Newman
Main cast:
Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, BarbraStreisand, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, Tim Blake Nelson