Old 12-26-2010, 04:47 PM
Paul Weitz's Little Fockers

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:



Little Fockers (2010)

Was anybody really asking for a third installment in this series? The original “Meet the Parents” had been a charming film about a man trying to get his future in-laws to like him and had had several amusing parts throughout. Then there was the sequel, “Meet the Fockers,” in which the parents of the couple finally met. It turned out to be less funny and rather forgettable. Now comes “Little Fockers,” which manages to go even lower in both of those departments.

Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) is now the head of a nursing department while his wife, Pam (Teri Polo), stays at home and watches their twin kids. They are currently trying to set up a birthday party for their kids but aren’t having much luck in having their backyard done in time. Pam’s parents, Jack (Robert De Niro) and Dina (Blythe Danner), are visiting for this special occasion which leads to more tension as Jack realizes that Greg will one day be the head of their family (his nickname for Greg in this regard is “The Godfocker”).

Meanwhile, as part of his nursing job, Greg has been asked by Andi Garcia (Jessica Alba) to give a speech at a convention to promote a new ED drug. Greg keeps it a secret so that Pam won’t think anything is going on between him and Andi, but Jack, being the suspicious man he is, finds some of the drug and immediately suspects that Greg is hiding something, like how he may not be as attracted to Pam as much as he used to be.

Having heard nothing but terrible things about this film thus far, I attempted to set the bar really low, but apparently it just wasn’t low enough. Since the two other films had had some pretty funny parts to them, it was possible that this one would too, but the film informs us of the low level of humor it will use very early on as it tries to turn an enema into a comedic situation. From there, there are sporadic moments that get a slight grin, but then there are other moments, like Greg having to deal with Jack’s erection from having taken the drug, that just make you shake your head in wonder at what the writers were thinking.

The film is loaded with talented people: Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Owen Wilson, Harvey Keitel, and Laura Dern. It makes you wonder if any one of them bothered to read the script ahead of time. It’s hard to believe that this is the same Robert De Niro who won Oscars for “The Godfather: Part II” and “Raging Bull.” I’m guessing, like I did with Geoffrey Rush in “The Warrior’s Way,” that he’s not exactly hard up for work or money, so why take a role that’s so beneath him?

Apparently Hoffman had read the script and had originally been unhappy with it. Eventually an agreement was reached where he would film only a few scenes, mainly of him practicing the Flamenco, and none of which end up adding nothing to the film whatsoever, so all the trouble over him returning ended up being for nothing. Hoffman should have stuck with his original instinct.

The writers, John Hamburg and Larry Stuckey, end up not having very much for these characters to do. For this entry, they almost stray into romantic-comedy territory, but luckily they end up not going that far off. Stuckey doesn’t have very much credit to his name, but Hamburg, aside from working on the other two films, also directed and co-wrote the hilarious “I Love You, Man” from last year. Here’s hoping he’s able to return to better material like that in the near future.

In the end, “Little Fockers” is merely a forgettable romp with these worn out characters. The writers couldn’t think of anything else to do with them probably because there is nothing left to do with them. The couple got married. The parents met each other, and they were getting along just fine before the writers tried to take it further. Even though the film only runs about 90 minutes, the lack of laughs makes it feel like it runs a lot longer, and yet it’s only been about an hour since the film ended, and it’s already slipping away. It’s time we bid farewell to these characters. They were fun at first, but now it’s time to let them be. 2/4 stars.
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