'Little Fockers' devoid of character, comedy



Article Published: Dec. 30, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'Little Fockers' devoid of character, comedy

Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller star in 'Little Fockers.'



frank@mountaintimes.com

"Meet the Parents."

"Meet the Fockers."

"Little Fockers."

There's definitely a trend here, and it involves a certain name that sounds like certain word. It was funny the first time and maybe worth a chuckle or two the second. The third time, it's that stifled, embarrassed laugh, laughing for the sake of humoring the teller.

And that's "Little Fockers," a 90-minute stale joke, told by respectable performers either having a bad night or really just wanting a paycheck.

From 2000's "Meet the Parents" (note how the title does not have that certain word in it) we met an unlikely, but hilarious, comic duo in Ben Stiller ("Zoolander") and Robert De Niro ("Taxi Driver"). It was a laugh-out-loud comedy to which people could relate.

Then came 2004's "Meet the Fockers," a mediocre rehash of the first, but with Dustin Hoffman ("Rain Man") and Barbra Streisand ("The Prince of Tides") stealing the show.

The series' third (but probably not last) installment, "Little Fockers" is a character comedy without any character. Despite boasting an expansive and oh-so-impressive cast, the film simply goes nowhere, each scene seeming like an awkwardly written comedy sketch mishmashed together for what Streisand's character calls a "Focker sandwich."

Note: Never let Barbra Streisand make you a sandwich.

Stiller returns as male nurse Greg Focker, now happily married with Pam (Teri Polo, "The Arrival") and the father of two twins, Samantha (Daisy Tahan, "Synecdoche, New York") and Henry (Colin Baiocchi, "Couples Retreat").

When father-in-law Jack Byrnes (De Niro) suffers a mild heart attack, he begins to consider his mortality. With his other son-in-law (Tom McCarthy, "2012") on Jack's **** list, he must confide in Greg and insist he carry on the Byrnes legacy, naming him "the Godfocker." This doesn't really make sense, considering Jack already has a son, who only appeared in the first film.

Uncharacteristically, Greg takes this to heart and decides his kids need to go to a super expensive private school led by Laura Dern ("Jurassic Park"), while he's also planning their collective birthday party, which his parents cannot attend. See, Bernie (Hoffman) is taking flamenco lessons in Spain, while Roz (Streisand) is hosting a sex talk show on cable.

Meanwhile, family friend and Greg's former rival Kevin (Wilson) shows up out of nowhere, having been spurned by his latest girlfriend, but rich beyond anyone's wildest dreams.

Oh, and Greg, now a nursing department head at a hospital, has a flirty drug rep (Jessica Alba, "Machete") to deal with, who talks him into being a spokesperson for a new erectile dysfunction drug, which, naturally, ends up with Jack, who ends up taking it, and you can guess what happens from there.

And, of course, Jack suspects Greg of having an affair with Alba. Then builder Randy (Harvey Keitel, "Pulp Fiction") has trouble finishing work on the Fockers' new house, where the twins' party is supposed to be held, while Jack's wife, Dina (Blythe Danner, "The Quality of Light"), takes Roz's advice to role play in bed, causing even more trouble, and so on and so forth.

Eventually, this all comes to a messy head, where there's a predictable conflict and an even more predictable resolution. Though called "Little Fockers," the movie doesn't really center on Greg and Pam's kids, the title simply an excuse to stretch a painfully taut joke.

"Little Fockers" is basically a series of non sequitur sketches strung together by the thinnest of plot threads, knotted with predictability and sadness, in that such a fine cast can perform in such a dismal movie. It's not the cast, really. Most of them are, at least, able to spur one or two laughs, especially De Niro and Wilson, but these characters, who we should certainly know by now, are flatter than flat.

Some appear only for the sake of appearing, like Hoffman and Streisand, who seem like they were thrown into the script at the last minute.

Paul Weitz ("American Pie"), succeeding Jay Roach ("Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery") in the director's chair, and writers John Hamburg (who wrote the first film) and Larry Stuckey ("Elling") don't play up the characters' strengths or quirks, instead mutating them into some sort of live action cartoon, where they're simply caricatures enduring a series of unfortunate events.

The laughs are sparse, and gone is any semblance of sentiment or rationality, replaced by Viagra and vomit jokes. Enough is enough, and the Fockers have overstayed their welcome.

"Little Fockers," rated PG-13 for mature sexual humor throughout, language and some drug content, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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