Released in 2000, Meet the Parents was a sly and deserving box-office smash, an expertly cast comedy that rolled out the giggles with both encouraging energy and refreshing regularity. Its 2004 sequel Meet the Fockers was slightly less inspired, but on the whole still offered a serviceable roster of laughs. Now in 2010 we have Little Fockers, thus completing a trilogy nobody asked for. If you’ve witnessed the other films in this unlikely franchise then there’s no reason to bother with this one, the movie generally coasting on a parade of stale jokes and broad crudity. I’m not necessarily suggesting Little Fockers is a candidate for worst production of the year, but with the exception of a few cheap guffaws it’s a pretty joyless charade.
Greg (Ben Stiller) and Pam Focker (Teri Polo) are now the proud parents of 5-year old twins. In order to meet with the demand of his now extending family Greg takes a job as the spokesman for a new erectile dysfunction pill, visually seduced by the pharmaceutical saleswoman (Jessica Alba) with whom he’s been teamed. Just as Greg accepts this employment opportunity his father in law Jack (Robert De Niro) endures a minor coronary episode, leading him to pay a visit to the Focker residence. Jack is concerned that Greg doesn’t have the stones to fill the family’s patriarchal shoes if he should pass away, and thus begins to scrutinise the hapless Greg as the two embark on several days of silly shenanigans and wacky misunderstandings. Yep, that’s more or less the plot of this movie.
It only takes a quick examination of the above synopsis to understand that Little Fockers barely has a story, the film more interested in stitching together a series of obvious comedic skits than actually creating an even semi-compelling narrative. The picture’s title also suggests an added emphasis on the junior Focker generation, but alas no, the film simply keeping the kiddies on hand as plot mechanisms and devices for easy tomfoolery. Little Fockers fails to even address the perils of parenthood, opting to sloppily rehash its predecessors instead. Due to the fact the movie provided a few cheap chuckles I’m reluctant to label it as totally worthless, but one must understand that from a scripting standpoint Little Fockers is an unimpressive work.
The central cast are fine, but one would expect as much after three movies. Stiller and De Niro still have a nice onscreen chemistry, even if the jokes on show here let them down. The dynamic remains palatable, what disappoints is the movie’s reliance on repeating gags from the previous outings. I mean how many times can you say the word “Godfocker” and expect it to be funny? The answer is barely once, yet Little Fockers ploughs it into the ground and still expects audience members to howl in delight. Teri Polo barely registers as Pam, her bland acting becoming a recurring pattern in this series. Both Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman pop up briefly as Greg’s hippie parents (and actually score some smiles through their comic skills); whilst Owen Wilson is adequate but not much else as Pam’s overly perfect ex-lover. Jessica Alba’s turn reeks of the actress trying too hard, whilst both of the little Fockers (Daisy Tahan and Colin Baiocchi) are brutally bad, even by the low standards of child actors. The only genuine relief is provided by a chirpy Laura Dern, the actress mining out some pleasure as the headmistress of an excessively cerebral kindergarten establishment.
For this third entry there’s been a major personnel switch-up, Paul Weitz replacing Jay Roach in the director’s chair. With “Meet the Parents” in particular Roach was able to forge some gut busting laughs through his relaxed approach, letting the awkward comic silences and amusing script do the heavy lifting for him. Weitz on the other hand struggles to knit the material together in a coherent fashion, his movie relying far more notably on gross sight gags and cheesy crowd pleasing moments to secure any semblance of worth. Ultimately the tone of humour found in Little Fockers is overly crass, the picture failing to stimulate the same excitable momentum found in Roach’s work. As a comedy Little Fockers also opts for the lazy way out too often, there’s a stunning lack of both creativity and passion emitting from Weitz’s direction. The fact the screenplay is a blank slate doesn’t much help matters, but Weitz’s sitcom filmmaking style deals a further blow to this already dubious motion picture.
Most viewers will probably laugh once or twice at Little Fockers, the embarrassment fuelled jokes roll around at such a rapid clip that you’ll eventually find something funny. Still, Little Fockers is largely an unadventurous and crappy endeavour, a paycheque feature for all involved. It stands no chance of garnering the same affection as the 2000 original, unless you happen to be the sort of person who loves the idea of Ben Stiller being vomited on, or the concept of Robert De Niro having to receive a medical injection into his erect penis. If you’re that type of filmgoer, then Little Fockers might just be your movie of the year. For those outside of that demographic though, it’s just not focking good enough.
Director: Paul Weitz
Cast: Ben Stiller, Teri Polo, Robert De Niro
Runtime: 98 min