A film review by Craig J. Koban January 4, 2011
2010, PG-13, 98 mins.
2010, PG-13, 98 mins.
Ben Stiller: Greg Focker / Robert De Niro: Jack Byrnes / Owen Wilson: Kevin / Teri Polo: Pam / Blythe Danner: Dina / Dustin Hoffman: Bernie / Barbra Streisand: Roz / Jessica Alba: Andi / Laura Dern: Prudence / Harvey Keitel: Randy / Daisy Tahan: Samantha / Colin Baiocchi: Henry
Directed by Paul Weitz / Written by John Hamburg, Larry Stuckey and Victoria Strouse
know that you're in trouble when the only thing that is audible in a packed
theatre for 90 minutes during a comedy is the sound of people fidgeting in
their seats and junk food rappers being frantically played with.
The one thing you definitely don’t want to hear is awkward
silence, which regrettably filled the cinema I was in during a screening
of LITTLE FOCKERS, the third - and hopefully last - film of...what shall I
call it…THE FOCKERS TRILOGY.
would arguably be the best descriptor of the film, directed by Paul
Weitz, who oh-so-long ago made 2002’s splendid British comedy, ABOUT A
BOY. Desperation would
be a close second. Just how
desperate, you may ask, is LITTLE FOCKERS?
Well, the film sets its tone very early on with the sight of R.N.
Greg “Gaylord” Focker (Ben Stiller) awkwardly assisting with the
insertion of a surgical tube up one obese patient’s anus.
Ho-ho. Perhaps even
more head-smackingly desperate is a late scene where Greg finally goes
mano-a-mano against his terminally suspicious and paranoid father-in-law,
Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro), a battle that finds its way into one of those kiddie
amusement park attractions that involves a swimming pool filled with
balls. As Jack dives to in
hunt Greg we hear the cords of John Williams’ legendary score for JAWS
creep into the soundtrack. The
only thing else required in the background was a laugh track.
is the 21st Century and I believe that there was a moratorium placed on
JAWS references, like, I dunno…three decades ago. Yet, according to the makers of LITTLE FOCKERS, references
like this are topical and are a scream.
It only further reveals that this comedy only exists to serve the
purpose of being a quick cash cow at the box office (remember: 2000’s
MEET THE PARENTS and 2004's MEET THE FOCKERS
collectively earned nearly $400 million at the box office) where all of
the performers essentially go through all of the familiar motions and
beats with minimal effort to get a mighty big paycheck.
There is truly nothing more this film can say about the fractured
nature of the relationship between the father and son-in-law that was not
already dealt with in the previous entries.
Oh wait…there is one new element:
LITTLE FOCKERS is the only film in the history of the entire medium
to have the line, “You son just witnessed his father injecting a needle
into his grandfather’s penis.”
the basics of the wafer thin plot:
Greg and his wife Pam (Teri Polo, now reduced to a stiff and
disinterested participant) now have two little Fockers of their own in a
son and daughter and Pam’s father and mother (Blythe Danner) decide to
pay them a visit. Beforehand,
Jack confides in Greg that he is suffering from a heart aliment and is
concerned for the future of the Byrnes/Focker clan.
This leads to another of the film’s flimsy and tired gags, where
Jack asks Greg in confidence whether he would be willing to – if he were
to suddenly die – take over the reigns of being a
patriarch of both families and become, ahem, the “Godfocker.”
Trust me, it reads funnier.
course, as was the case with the previous entries, the always watchful
eyes of Jack focuses on Greg to ensure that he’s worthy enough for the new
mantle, and it begins badly for poor Greg during a botched dinner, where
he accidentally slices his finger with the turkey carving knife and
projectile spills blood over everyone (the entire FOCKER series has always
had a field day with presenting the dinner scene as a centerpiece for
comic catastrophe). Of
course, this leads to further prying from Jack: there is one funny gag
involving him calling up the CIA for some Intel, but they tell him that
his security clearance is too old and suggest that he try Google instead.
complications ensue that hurt Greg’s chance to become the Godfocker: his
new home that’s being developed is being stymied by the inabilities of
its foreman (played inexplicably by Harvey Keitel; did he lose a bet?) and
a very important interview with a highly prestigious school for children
called The Early Human School ends terribly.
Even worse is the presence of a drug company representative named,
wait for it, Andi Garcia, which tips off some very predictable verbal
riffs and gags (she is played with much enthusiasm and spunk by Jessica
Alba that has more than a platonic interest in Greg).
She also is peddling a new Viagra like drug (Sustengo) designed for people with
heart aliments, so you know – you just know – that there will be a
scene with De Niro sporting a below-the-waste one-armed salute.
has his apprehensions about Greg and Andi’s relationship, which leads to
the obligatory standoffs. It
culminates in a scene where Jack – for reasons too complicated to
explain – decides to take Sustengo, which leads to him having a
five-hour plus erection (ouch). Since
Greg is a nurse and conveniently has the required shot that Jack needs to
help him, we are given a would-be uproarious moment where Greg stabs the
plunger into Jack’s swollen member, which is witnessed by Greg’s son.
really dawned on me all through LITTLE FOCKERS:
De Niro not only agreed to star, but also served as one of the
producers here, which is kind of a double-whammy indignity for the actor
of MEAN STREETS, RAGING BULL, TAXI
DRIVER, and GOODFELLAS.
Does an actor of his caliber really think that this material
is worth investing in a third time? Co-stars
Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand come off a bit better, seeing as they
more or less are reduced to glorified cameos this go around as Greg’s
creepily hedonistic parents (mother Focker now has a sex therapy show
that, much to Greg’s chagrin, involves her revealing many of his early
masturbation habits). Hoffman’s
role is extremely limited, seeing as he was not initially a part of
principle photography and filmed his few scenes late in the production,
and considering the resulting film, I can see why his participatory
choices were wise.
I greatly enjoyed what a family comedy of ill and uncomfortable manners MEET THE PARENTS was and, to an extent, MEET THE FOCKERS achieved the same high laugh rate status quo. Alas, in LITTLE FOCKERS were are reduced to lots of lame and dreary jokes involving sexual innuendo and body parts, infantile gross out humor involving flatulence and stream vomiting, and other lowest common denominator pratfalls that seem more akin to the resume of Adam Sandler. Then, of course, we get the painfully predictable and dumb jokes regarding Greg’s last name, which were side-splittingly funny the first go-around and moderately amusing the second go-around. This time, though, the attempt at draining out chuckles out of various permutations of the name Focker is both cheap and juvenile. I mean…enough already. We get it. Honestly, we do. His name sounds an awful lot like the words "Fuck" and "Fucker".
speaking of enough: how about a new and fresh arc to this series? We have twice now seen how Jack begins to distrust Greg so
much that he engages in clandestine missions to sabotage him that
unavoidably leads to confrontations, accusations, and a climatic quarrel
that, in turn, inevitably leads to them making up.
I am tired of seeing the pair lock horns yet again in a
witless script on pure autopilot. There
are limitlessly talented people on board here:
they honestly did not all reach a consensus that the screenplay of LITTLE
FOCKERS was worth investing and participating in…right?
will say this: I liked two things in this mournfully pointless
comedy, the first being Alba’s attempts to inject some much needed
chirpiness and high-spirited vitality into this worn-out series (that, and we get to see
her in bra and panties, which is a bit of all right).
Secondly, Owen Wilson returns as Kevin, a former lover of Pam’s
that shows up at inopportune times in Greg’s life, dishing out passive
Zen-hippie philosophy whenever he sees fit, much to Greg's
consternation. He also has many peculiar hobbies outside of his job
as an investment banker, like carpentry, meditative healing, and Cirque du
Soleil-styled acrobatic performing arts.
He has the two funniest zingers in the film that only the seditious
and dry Wilson can utter. “You
leave Deepak Chopra out of this,” during a confrontation with Greg and,
earlier on, he reveals how fulfilling his job is at a soup kitchen.
“While I was busy feeding their stomachs, those bums and
transients were busy feeding my soul.” Now that's...dare I
say... focking funny.
MEET THE FOCKERS (2004)
And, for what it's worth, CrAiGeR's ranking of all of the FOCKERS TRILOGY films:
1. MEET THE PARENTS (2000) 1/2
2. MEET THE FOCKERS (2004)
3. LITTLE FOCKERS (2010) 1/2