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It's loathe at first sight for the Byrnes and Fockers in Meet the Fockers, sequel to Meet the Parents.

'Flight of the Phoenix' meets the plight of the Fockers

Meet the Fockers
Dir. Jay Roach; writ. John Hamburg, Jim Herzfeld; feat. Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Barbara Streisand, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo (R)

Four years later, the humiliation is still poured on strong as Meet the Fockers, the sequel to the 2000 hit Meet the Parents, manages to find more ways to mercilessly degrade male nurse Greg Focker (Stiller).

Greg, fiancée Pam (Polo), her parents Jack and Dina Byrnes (De Niro and Danner), and their genius toddler grandson, pile into the family Winnebago for a road trip to Miami to visit Greg's parents. Although Greg knows that his mother Roz (Streisand), a sex therapist, and father Bernie (Hoffman), a stay-at-home dad, are only good "in small doses," both he and his sly, soon-to-be-father-in-law Jack anticipate the metaphorical "Byrnes family circle of trust" will soon be extended to form a dependable chain.

That, of course, doesn't happen as the relaxed Fockers and stiff Byrnes cannot seem to get along despite Greg and Pam's sincere attempts to bring their parents together. With secrets harbored among the families, including Jack's past in the CIA and Pam's recently discovered pregnancy, the hoped-for "chain" quickly becomes an unlinked mess, and Jack and Bernie predictably clash in parenthood principles and personalities.

Although cliché "meet the in-law" events occur, including the unleashing of the embarrassing baby album, screenwriters Hamburg and Herzfeld take what should be mere awkwardness and turn it into mentally scarring scenes for the goodhearted Greg.

Casting Streisand, whose last film was 1996's The Mirror Has Two Faces, and Hoffman as Greg's laidback Jewish parents fits the script perfectly. Hoffman's zaniness and love for his son actually outdo De Niro's moody mannerisms, though both play off one another to create a well-tailored comedy. Add on scenes of sexually energized antics, off-color engagement party speeches, and a slaphappy game of football and you've got yourself a family reunion you actually wouldn't mind attending. Kiko Martinez

Flight of the Phoenix
Dir. John Moore; writ. Scott Frank, Edward Burns; feat. Dennis Quaid, Giovanni Ribisi, Tyrese, Miranda Otto (PG-13)

When their airplane takes a nosedive into the abyss of the Gobi Desert, an oil-drilling team is forced to make tactical decisions if they want to find a way out of the sand dune graveyard.

Leading the crew, unwillingly, is Captain Frank Towns (Quaid), a no-nonsense pilot who thought his only responsibility was delivering a crew of excavators back home. Plans change as the group must attempt to survive the unsympathetic environment that surrounds them. This includes battles with sandstorms and irked nomads, and Mutiny on the Bounty moments among their group. To top that off - gasp - the water supply is running devastatingly low.

Despite differing opinions, the deserted finally agree that the only way to escape their predicament is to attempt to build another airplane out of the damaged one. It's a good thing that among the crew is Elliott (Ribisi), an aeronautics engineer who believes the team can accomplish the feat before they succumb to the heat.

A remake of the 1965 film of the same name starring James Stewart, Phoenix hopes to rise above the flames like its namesake mythological creature, but it tailspins into unreliable and very inconsistent characterizations throughout its 114-minute run. Do we follow Ribisi's character when he is an all-knowing genius, a murderous psychotic, or a meek liar? Who knows? What we realize, eventually, is that all of the characters are one-dimensional duds that spend half of their time onscreen arguing about who's taking extra sips out of the water jug.

Without any intensified scenes or sense of escapism, all we can really count on from the sweat-inducing Phoenix are chapped lips and egregious ring-around-the-collar. Kiko Martinez



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