REVIEW: Little Fockers [2010]

“Stay calm, Mr. Jinx. I’m going to defibrillate myself.”

Par for the course. Is that diplomatic enough? It’s a statement that could go both ways depending on what came first, but for those who know me, and my comedy sensibilities, it is not good here. Meet the Parents was harmless enough and semi-worthwhile to see Ben Stiller squirm, Robert De Niro use his brooding persona for humor, (although give me Analyze This any day), and Owen Wilson’s other-worldly transcendence. Meet the Fockers then took a marginal film, added two kooks in Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand, and thought it’d do the same thing and have the same effect. Unfortunately, to the masses, it did. To me, it stretched an already tiresome plot thinner to the point of over-kill and boredom. The next logical step then, of course, is to clone the schtick once more—not to mention the very first incarnation bought out and buried from 1992— and add even more characters, while bringing back all the originals, for the aptly named Little Fockers. Apt because of the obvious slip of the tongue thought when watching the selfish people onscreen, not the twins turning five and readying to party.

De Niro’s Jack Byrnes’s persona is fun, there’s no denying it. But how far do you really think you can go before you hope his heart attack scare becomes fatal? We’ve tried through two movies already to forgive his abrasiveness and hope he finally accepts Stiller’s Greg as kin. This family-man nurse who loves his wife and kids would be a welcome addition to any lineage, but Jack’s desire to wedge himself into the lives of others brings out the awkward craziness within, not to mention Greg’s genealogical insanity that Part 2’s Mom and Pop Focker hit us over the head with. There’s a bit of everything in this menagerie with the tightly wound Jack and his composed yet trapped free spirit wife Dina (Blythe Danner) to the sexual sparkplug of Streisand’s Roz and beau Bernie (Hoffman), a man with a gutter sense of humor and no shame. We could have done without the second couple this go-round—Hoffman was originally left out of the mix before test audiences panicked Universal, causing reshoots to get him back in (the “Flash Forward” billboard in the background at the start will give an idea of how long ago shooting began)—but I guess they were one more distraction from the weak plot.

Where else was there to go, though? The series is all about making Stiller uncomfortable and Jack’s CIA tendencies did the trick before he was followed by the culture clash of regimented control and hippie frivolity. Children can only put a wrench in things so much since we can’t have abusive parenting in family films. The filmmakers have to stop at one twin’s intellect overshadowing her brother’s child-like naïveté—God forbid—and the stubbornness of a daughter refusing to talk to her father. For the real meat, then, and cheap laughs, we’re given Jessica Alba’s Andi Garcia, (yes, the name is fodder for easy jokes), a hot pharmaceutical rep peddling sex drugs to infer a sexual attraction on behalf of Greg. If the writers really wanted us to believe he’d even fathom committing sin, they should have made her intelligent and at least comparable to Teri Polo’s consummate perfect wife, (besides that pesky Owen Wilson problem), instead possessing the mind, vocabulary, and gestures of a GED-toting co-ed majoring in boys for college. The saddest part is that Alba’s Diablo Cody-esque bombshell truly is funny in its absurdity. And she looks good in her underwear, so a point for that.

And while she may be the largest new supporting player, she isn’t alone as far as the revolving door of new bit parts to scratch your heads at. There’s also Laura Dern’s private school principal utilized for her cultish, ‘I drank the Koo-Aid’ smile and sunny disposition in the face of flatulence and counter culture to go with Harvey Keitel’s way too over-the-top contractor who’s gimmicky long hair, earrings, and touchy-feely attitude is his only purpose. You can’t even say it’s good to see he and De Niro onscreen together again, because if the money wasn’t so good and their memories so fleeting from old age, I’d hope they had a good cry after Paul Weitz yelled cut, languishing in how they’ve sold out. Fart jokes and sexual snafus aside, though, the script itself is so bloated from the extra baggage of personalities that it relays on corny wordplay like ‘The Godfocker’ and ‘manopause’ to beg for laughs. Seriously? Has it come to that? Everyone involved is merely hoping to get through it alive, praying the inevitable, hamfisted moment of familial love and acceptance will come and end this futile exercise because, honestly, didn’t it already happen twice before?

All is not totally lost, however, and there are some genuine laughs. The problem lies in the fact I can count them on one hand. Like its predecessors, Little Fockers shines in its end credits, this time giving De Niro’s Jack a healthy dose of what the internet has to offer, and what a YouTube remix entails. Every joke throughout the film is pretty much ruined by their set-ups, so the fact I was caught off-guard by where they went with YouTube was a great surprise, although, in retrospect, probably something I should have guessed. Wilson’s whole flower-child meets man’s man meets holistic shaman is always a saving grace and I’ll give the kiddos, Daisy Tahan and Colin Baiocchi, their due for being precocious and cute in all the right ways. But the real big-ticket event is a climatic fight between Jack and Greg—a heavyweight encounter we’ve been waiting a decade for. The moves are priceless, the facial expressions classic, and even a tired Jaws homage in the ball pool cracks a grin. It definitely wasn’t enough to make me forget or forgive the previous hour and a half, but the fact the final ten/fifteen minutes entertained is worth something. Let’s just hope that something is retirement, because the world has seen enough of the Fockers. At least I have anyway.

Little Fockers 3/10 | ★

[1] Grandpa Jack (ROBERT DE NIRO) and Samantha Focker (DAISY TAHAN) have a heart-to-heart talk in the third installment of the blockbuster series–“Little Fockers”. Photo Credit: Glen Wilson © 2010 Universal Studios & DW Studios LLC
[2] Pam (TERI POLO) and Greg Focker (BEN STILLER) in the third installment of the blockbuster series–“Little Fockers”. Photo Credit: Glen Wilson © 2010 Universal Studios & DW Studios LLC
[3] Robert De Niro, Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller and Harvey Keitel in Universal Pictures’ Little Fockers (2010)

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