<preform>Meet the Fockers (12A)</br>Assault on Precinct 13 (15)</br>Creep (18)</br>Paparazzi (15)</preform>

You've already met the parents - now meet the overkill
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The Independent Culture

In Meet the Parents, Greg Focker did indeed meet his girlfriend's parents, and found his prospective father-in-law, Jack (Robert De Niro), to be a retired CIA officer with a lie-detector in the basement and a frighteningly well-trained cat. It wasn't exactly cinéma vérité, then, but the farce was built up with such care and played with such conviction by Stiller and De Niro that it never lost all contact with reality. Even when Greg had chaos and sewage erupting around him, we could believe that the very same thing might one day happen to us. The sequel is a different matter.

In Meet the Parents, Greg Focker did indeed meet his girlfriend's parents, and found his prospective father-in-law, Jack (Robert De Niro), to be a retired CIA officer with a lie-detector in the basement and a frighteningly well-trained cat. It wasn't exactly cinéma vérité, then, but the farce was built up with such care and played with such conviction by Stiller and De Niro that it never lost all contact with reality. Even when Greg had chaos and sewage erupting around him, we could believe that the very same thing might one day happen to us. The sequel is a different matter.

It's called Meet the Fockers (12A), although it could have been called The Parents Meet, because that's what it's about: Jack and his wife (Blythe Danner) drive to Miami with Greg and his fiancée (Teri Polo) to stay with Greg's mum and dad for the weekend. They're just the sort of people who would have Jack reaching for his handcuffs - two touchy-feely ageing hippies played by Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman. Incidentally, the casting of the latter was a stroke of genius. Ben Stiller's off-screen dad is Jerry Stiller, one of the regulars on Seinfeld, and he looks a lot less like his son than Hoffman does.

Unfortunately, if Greg's parentage is convincing, precious little else is.

As you might guess from the title, Meet the Fockers takes almost every joke from Meet the Parents and replays them with the subtlety removed. Jack doesn't just have a polygraph now, for instance, he's got a million-dollar battle bus fitted with more technology than the Batmobile. Everything is a long, long way over the top. The dinner scene in MTP showed us how much comedy could be ignited just by sparking Stiller, De Niro and a cat together. MTF reruns that scene with the addition of two eccentric Fockers, a dog on heat, a voluptuous caterer and a wailing toddler, and the effect is just exhausting. Come to think of it, maybe it does resemble a genuine family gathering, after all, but it's one of those overcrowded, overheated occasions that make you want to sneak outside and let everyone else get on with it.

Assault on Precinct 13 (15) is a remake of the John Carpenter thriller from 1976. It's got a considerably bigger budget, most of which has been spent on making the gunshots as loud as possible, and some of which has secured a cast that should have had better things to do. Laurence Fishburne plays Bishop, a Detroit gang boss who has been locked up for the night in a police station in a derelict industrial district. Ethan Hawke plays one of the few cops manning the station on New Year's Eve. And Gabriel Byrne is the baddie who orders his private army to break in and assassinate Bishop, thereby forcing the police and their prisoners to team up and hold the fort.

It might have been better if the producers had spent the money on the script. Assault on Precinct 13 has one new idea - the invaders aren't a rival gang, they're corrupt cops - but that's all the thinking that's gone into it. Neither side comes up with any original plans to defeat their enemies, and there's a forest and a tunnel that appear from nowhere when the screenwriter needs them to.

Creep (18) is an unironic, down-the-Bakerloo-line horror flick starring Franka Potente as a fashion scenester who falls asleep on a London Underground station platform. When she wakes up, she realises she's been locked in, and there's no one else around - or is there? Taking full advantage of the inherent spookiness of a subterranean complex that's crawling with scavenging rodents, Creep may not be a work of high art, but it's that rare thing, a British horror film that knows what it's doing. If you want to see a blonde in a skimpy dress being chased down a tunnel by a slavering mutant, then Creep is fast and efficient - which is more than can be said for the London Underground.

Films that are "so bad they're good" are more or less a myth, but if any film qualifies it's Paparazzi (15), which is so terrifically stupid in every respect that you might applaud if you were told it was the latest parody from the makers of South Park and Team America. In fact, it's produced by Mel Gibson, and he and some of his famous pals cameo, so if nothing else it gives you a taste of the Gibson mindset. Cole Hauser stars as a Hollywood action hero who is hounded by tabloid photographers. "I'm going to destroy your life," says one of them, "and eat your soul!" Hauser then takes violent revenge, and the detective assigned to the case reckons that a celebrity who caves in a photographer's skull with a baseball bat is well within his rights. Whatever happened to turning the other cheek, eh, Mel?

n.barber@independent.co.uk

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