Little Fockers Wallows in Below-the-Belt Humor
- Wednesday, December 22, 2010
DVD Release Date: April 5, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: December 22, 2010
Rating: PG-13 (for mature sexual humor throughout, language and some drug content)
Genre: Comedy, Sequel
Run Time: 98 min.
Director: Paul Weitz
Actors: Ben Stiller, Teri Polo, Robert De Niro, Blythe Danner, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Jessica Alba, Laura Dern, Harvey Keitel
When will the little Fockers grow up? The third—and, let's hope, final—chapter in the series about Greg and Pam Focker (Ben Stiller and Teri Polo) and their wacky parents is packed with stars in leading roles and cameos, but all that star power fails to bring on the humor. Little Fockers has one of the lowest laughs-to-attempted-jokes ratios in recent memory—a huge disappointment considering the talent assembled for the project.
The so-called plot revolves around a planned birthday party for Greg and Pam Fockers' young twins. The heart of the story is Greg's relationship with gorgeous pharmaceutical representative Andi (Jessica Alba), who entices Greg, a male nurse, to fulfill his potential and become a "medical superstar." How? By delivering a speech promoting a new erectile dysfunction drug, Sustengo.
If the premise sounds like one that might allow for insights into Greg and Pam's marriage, think again. The film isn't as interested in moral lessons as much as it is in gross-out gags. For instance, Greg and Andi bond by working together to administer an enema to a reluctant hospital patient. That's the level of the film's humor. There's also a subplot about the marital separation of Pam's sister from Dr. Bob, who was unfaithful to her, but the film never seriously addresses the impending divorce. It's used instead as fodder for further jokes about father-in-law Jack's (Robert De Niro) obsessive fixation on Greg, which has been the subject of countless gags since Meet the Parents introduced us to the trio of Jack, Greg and Pam.
Sex is the subject that ties together all the couples in this film. Jack sees what's happening with Greg and Andi, so he interrogates Greg about whether he's still attracted to Pam and whether they're still sexually active. Jack's wife, Dina (Blythe Danner), tries a little sexual role-playing to distract Jack from meddling into Greg's business. Then there are Greg's parents, Roz (Barbra Streisand) and Bernie (Dustin Hoffman), and their later-in-life marital crisis. Bernie has fled to Spain to study flamenco dancing, leaving Roz to the sex-advice TV show she hosts. And Pam's friend Kevin (Owen Wilson), after his latest failed relationship, returns to Pam's and Greg's town, professing Eastern philosophy and a love for Pam that pushes the boundaries of friendly affection.
Director Paul Weitz, who made the fine comedy In Good Company, can't do much with the sitcom-style antics of Little Fockers, so he peppers the film with sequences that are out of keeping with the rest of the storytelling. In one of these sequences, Jack stalks Greg on a subway train. In another, Jack chases Greg into a container filled with plastic balls at a kids' play center, leading Weitz to mimic a famous shot from Steven Spielberg's Jaws.
None of this makes the film better, but instead points out how hapless are Little Fockers' below-the-belt antics, pedestrian direction, and loads of underused stars. For instance, a subplot about Greg's and Pam's efforts to get their kids placed in an elite grade school goes nowhere but provides the film with yet another cameo from an actor (Laura Dern), who deserves better.
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