As with "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events," Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro's "Meet the Fockers," a much-anticipated sequel to their 2000 hit "Meet the Parents,"...

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As with “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro’s “Meet the Fockers,” a much-anticipated sequel to their 2000 hit “Meet the Parents,” opens with a quickly dispensed delusion that all is right with the world.

Gaylord “Greg” Focker (Stiller) and his fiancée, Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo), ready to introduce their parents to one another, have a plane to catch and easily glide through the whole experience. No problem getting a taxi, no delay in airport lines, no hassle getting bumped to first class when coach proves overbooked. Of course, no one’s karma is that good, especially with a wedding in the works, and Greg is soon squirming again under the baleful eye of Pam’s disapproving dad, former CIA snoop Jack Byrnes (De Niro).

If Greg’s re-entry into Pam’s old life isn’t quite as traumatic as in “Parents” — there are no ashes of cremated relatives to spill or another spiritually superior ex-boyfriend to meet — he remains a captive of Jack’s mistrustful, autocratic universe. Greg still can’t do anything right where Pam’s old man is concerned, whether it’s baby-sitting the latter’s rigidly programmed grandson or co-piloting a recreational vehicle that serves as Jack’s intelligence-gathering lab on the road.

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“Meet the Fockers,”
with Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo. Directed by Jay Roach, from a screenplay by John Hamburg and Jim Herzfeld, based on a story by Herzfeld and Marc Hyman. Rated PG-13 for sexual humor, language and a brief drug reference. 90 minutes. Several theatres.

But Jack is soon immersed in his own nightmare at the Florida home of Greg’s free-spirited parents, Roz (Barbra Streisand) and Bernie (Dustin Hoffman) Focker. Sunny, engagingly coarse, still hot for one another, the elder Fockers are mirror-opposites of control freak Jack and his sexually ignored wife, Dina (Blythe Danner). In no time, chemistry between the future in-laws goes south, but not before Roz, a sex therapist who finds nothing embarrassing in quizzing Greg about his intimacy with Pam, befriends lonely Dina. Meanwhile, anti-authoritarian Bernie decides to take Jack’s moral certainty down a notch.

“Meet the Fockers” takes time to generate comic momentum, but the irresistible energy of Hoffman and Streisand soon refreshes the leftover story line from “Parents.” At the same time, “Parents”‘ director Jay Roach gets to riff anew on some of the prior film’s best material. There is a priceless sequence in which Greg, left in charge of the aforementioned grandchild, digs a deep hole for himself by accidentally exposing the kid to sundry vices — all caught on Jack’s hidden video camera, of course. Stiller’s very good once again, but it’s possible this sequel will be best remembered for Streisand’s delightful turn and the second comic pairing (after “Wag the Dog”) of two of our very best actors, Hoffman and De Niro.

Tom Keogh: