By Claudia Puig
Barbra Streisand does spit takes, and Dustin Hoffman eats from other people's plates in Meet the Fockers, the sequel to the 2000 hit Meet the Parents, due in theaters Dec. 22.
In an exclusive first look at the movie, director Jay Roach compares Streisand and Hoffman's comic timing to that of another legendary screen twosome: Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.
Streisand and Hoffman play the Fockers (pronounced Fawkers), the parents of male nurse Greg Focker (Ben Stiller), who is engaged to Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo). In this film, the free-spirited Fockers meet the uptight Jack and Dinah Byrnes, played again by Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner.
"Dustin and Barbra should have been a comedy team," says Roach, whose first film grossed a blockbuster $166 million. "They have great comic timing. They could have done vaudeville or I Love Lucy or even Tracy-Hepburn stuff."
The first meeting between the Fockers and the Byrneses occurs over afternoon cocktails. Streisand, in her first film in eight years, devised an inspired addition to the dialogue, Roach says.
"Dustin is giving a toast, and Barbra starts to sip," Roach says. "He tells her 'You can't drink yet,' so she spits out the drink, ice cube and all, into her glass and says, 'Oh, sorry.' It was a little bit of controlled chaos but in the most delicious way."
The Fockers also are big on public displays of affection, which causes much eye-rolling on De Niro's part.
"They're very open about what they feel and think, and some of it's inappropriate," Roach says.
Streisand, a couples therapist who uses sex as a way to restore intimacy, probes a bit too deeply into the private lives of De Niro and Danner.
While the Byrneses are big on secrets and "the circle of trust," which means locked doors and hushed phone calls in their stately home, the Fockers let it all hang out in Florida.
When they all meet in Florida, the Byrneses are characteristically buttoned-down: He in muted sport coats; she in blazers and scarves. The Fockers prefer sandals and flowing shirts.
"They're definitely the antithesis of the Robert De Niro family," Roach says.
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