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Quality comedies — if they go beyond one sequel — never come in threes. In the case of Little Fockers, three’s a Focking mess. But we asked for it; Meet the Fockers ranks as the highest-grossing live-action comedy in the U.S., so regardless of quality, we were going to get whatever studios served us. And sure enough, Little Fockers cooks up tired modern gags, basically forgetting that the last decade of comedy (including its two predecessors) ever existed and that we could be won over by open mentions of sex (ooh!) and recycled dick drug gags.
It’s several years later and Greg and Pam Focker (Ben Stiller and Teri Polo) live in Chicago with their twins, Henry and Samantha. Grandpa Jack Byrnes (De Niro) has grown concerned over the Byrnes family legacy as he’s been having some heart issues lately and his first son-in-law, Dr. Bob, has failed him after having an affair and getting a divorce. As such, before he and wife Dina (Blythe Danner) arrive for the twins’ birthday, he tells Greg that he’s ready to pass the torch to Greg, who’s eager but still scared about winning Jack’s full approval and becoming “The Godfocker.”
The film focuses on Jack and Greg again, as expected, so among other faults, the title Little Fockers is misleading. The kids are hardly in the picture expect for cheap jokes and they’re neither cute nor talented. In a family dinner scene where Greg (with “Godfather” music in the background) commands that Henry eat his lasagna, Henry succumbs but then spews vomit all over his father. Whenever the film seems to breeze about with a bit more of a sense of humor like this, a tasteless joke shoots in that prompts us to vomit as well.
Contrivances and predictable story lines litter “Fockers” and damper the occasional moments of humor. The familiarity we have with Greg and Jack helps create that humor and some clever jokes actually do exist, but the script leans on typical “misunderstanding” plot devices, most of which were ironically used most effectively in Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers. The whole idea of “if they worked once they’ll work again” does not apply. The “twists” of this film are set up so conspicuously that as they unfold, it’s like you know what happens because you’ve seen it before. And you likely have, because there was probably something similar in it from a previous “Focker” film.
Outside of Jack spying on Greg, who tries to keep it a secret that he’s trying to make extra cash by pushing a new erectile dysfunction drug for a gorgeous drug rep (Jessica Alba), all the side characters and plots are garbage. Owen Wilson returns as Kevin and the running joke other than him being some rich worldly hippie is that he’s in love with Pam, which never amounts to anything. Alba over-ditzifies her part, which should have been played by a nameless attractive woman, proving the seasoned actress has no idea how to shake her type.
Even Bernie and Roz Focker (Hoffman and Streisand) are out of place, squeezed in to appease the audience who expects them to show up. It’s actually unfortunate, because neither of them totally overdo their part (I should say cameo) or annoy us with the fact that despite the same thing happening for the third film in a row now, no one’s learned their lesson. Greg actually catches Jack spying on him on the train and after eight years of knowing each other, Greg doesn’t confront him openly right then and there. Sure this was for the sake of keeping the tension up, but at some point you can’t keep milking the same goat, or cow, or cat. Yes, Jinxie returns, also with a convenient line of dialogue from Wilson who says “I had her brought in town for you (Jack) when I heard about your heart,” just to set up another pet mischief joke that’s completely out of place at the end of the film.
Basically, we’re Focking tired. “Little Fockers” is simply another example of a movie concept that’s run its course and should have never gone beyond two films and only did because of the money. In a sense, there should be no surprises here. Then again, attempted jokes such as young Henry randomly asking if girls poop from their vaginas at the dinner table, could have been replaced with something more thoughtful — and tasteful.
Directed by Paul Weitz
Written by John Hamburg and Larry Stuckey (screenplay), Greg Glienna and Mary Ruth Clarke (characters)
Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Owen Wilson, Teri Polo