Weekend Forecast for Meet the Fockers
By Reagen Sulewski
December 22, 2004

My trailer is so much bigger than yours.

As we come up to Christmas, while this weekend is technically not the last box office weekend of the year, no new releases are planned for Christmas Eve, a cinematic graveyard, so this is the last truly important debut. Christmas Eve is itself a bit of a dead zone, but Christmas Day makes up for that in spades. While there are essentially six new big films out there to see, this update covers Meet the Fockers, which beats the weekend by opening on Wednesday.

Somewhat lost this year in "aren't we sick of Jude Law yet" bashing this year is the fact that Ben Stiller has also appeared in six films released in calendar year 2004, making them co-winners of the Michael Caine "I'm in Everything" Trophy. His last film of the year is Meet the Fockers, the sequel to the smash 2000 hit Meet the Parents, which introduced a whole new generation to Sellers-esque social manner comedies. Finishing up with $166 million, it is Robert De Niro's highest grossing movie to date, and the second highest for Stiller. A sequel was pretty much inevitable, and hinted at at the end of the first film.

However, in much the same fashion as DeNiro's last comedy sequel, Analyze That, the filmmakers seem to have fallen into the trap of "trying a wee bit too hard". While the resemblance of Stiller's character's last name to a certain carnal act was amusing in the first film, it's not a joke you can really carry over two films (side note: who gets the job of translating this joke for international audiences? "German: Treffen Sie Scheizers"). There's also something of a fundamental flaw in that Stiller is humiliated by both sets of parents now. Since the comedy of the first was how out of his element he was, when he's back in his (supposed) environment, the joke loses its power, at least in my opinion.

Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand play the new-agey parents of Stiller here, although I can still dream about the Jerry Stiller version that exists in my head. Neither have much track record of any kind in the last few years, though I can imagine that for every viewer Streisand attracts, she drives another one away, much like Demi Moore did for Charlie's Angels 2. There's also the aforementioned Analyze That, which more or less defined unnecessary sequels. At least there's nothing so ridiculous as DeNiro singing showtunes in this one.

It's often a little difficult to figure out which Stiller films people are going to embrace or reject; in the last year and a half he had two noisy bombs, Envy and Duplex. Everything else seemed to fall in the $25-30 million range for an opening weekend. It's an enviable run for anyone, even including those two mistakes, and certainly bodes well for a strong opening even despite awful reviews. If Along Came Polly can overcome that and open to almost $30 million, all bets are off. I think there's a lot of good will towards the first film and its memory that just wasn't there for Analyze This, so even though I don't think we're looking at the hit of the winter, it's not going to hurt anyone's track records.

The weekend figure is going to be impacted here by both a Wednesday opening and Christmas Eve, but even with these factors, Stiller has a fairly loyal fanbase. Meet the Fockers should come in at about $20 million for three days, $29 from Wednesday to Sunday, and about another $25 million Christmas week.

Stay tuned for further box office forecasts through the rest of the week.