Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Little Fockers" just a fockingly unfunny retread


Little Fockers (2010)
98 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: D 

Ten years ago, "Meet the Parents" was a nice comedic surprise from the inspired coupling of Ben Stiller and heavy-hitter Robert De Niro. The strain started to show in its 2004 sequel "Meet the Fockers," but it had the loopy casting of Gaylord Focker's rents (Barbara Streisand, Dustin Hoffman), making it a moderate hoot. Now here we are with "Little Fockers," the hat trick of this supposed trilogy, but it's more of a one-trick pony stretching a by-now lame joke to the focking breaking point. The last name “Focker” just isn't funny anymore. Neither are enimas, projectile vomiting, or 5 ½ hour erections. Nor is a family dinner turning into a gorefest as Greg carves open a turkey, slicing open his finger and blood spurting all over everyone. That's comedy for you! 

"Little Fockers" has Samantha (Daisy Tahan) and Henry Focker (Colin Baiocchi, a younger-looking Angus T. Jones), but they're so marginalized, except for reaction shots, that they add nothing to the party. If the jokes were funny, the story wouldn't matter, but the jokes are stale and desperate groaners, and there's no real story. Prior to Greg and Pam Focker's twin children turning five, Greg is appointed the patriarch heir (“The Godfocker” as he calls it) by ex-CIA father-in-law Jack Byrnes, who's arriving with wife Dina to Chicago to celebrate, after Dr. Bob (the other son-in-law) has an affair. The old gang's back with most of the same jokes from the first two movies, only now they're even more obviously telegraphed by Paul Weitz's direction (taking the reigns from Jay Roach, who wisely called it quits after 2). It reverts back to square one: Greg gets himself into so many more misunderstandings with Jack who still gives him the stink eye. "Little Fockers" culminates to them physically duking it out in a bouncy castle and ball pen. 

Teri Polo as wife Pam stands on the sidelines this time around, much like her little ones, but a mugging Jessica Alba's newly on hand, playing a flirty minx of a drug rep named Andi Garcia (yes, like the actor) who's peddling a new erectile dysfunction pill and throws herself at Greg. Laura Dern also joins the cast as the earthy headmistress of a school, and she mistakes father and son-in-law for gay lovers (Ha). For a late grumpy-old-men reunion with De Niro, Harvey Keitel has a bit role as a miffed contractor. Streisand and Hoffman literally dial in their parts, her Roz the host of a sex show and his Bernie practicing flamenco dancing, and are finally shoehorned into the proceedings at the twins' big birthday blowout. Admittedly, the duo again makes every moment count. There's also more tension between Greg and his wife Pam's former lover, Kevin (Owen Wilson), who now practices Eastern medicine. Only Blythe Danner, all patience and understanding as Jack's wife Dina, really comes away with her dignity still intact. 

But this tiresome screenplay, by John Hamburg (of the first two) and Larry Stuckey, just reeks of annoying desperation with more sitcom contrivances and subplots that don't pay off and don't earn laughs. None, nada. "Little Fockers" is the epitome of a lazy-ass, lowest-common-denominator quick buck that gives the people what they want for the holiday season, but the people deserve so much better. And can someone just focking give Stiller his focking Clown of Humiliation Comedy Award and get it focking over with? 

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