It took three installments but the “Fockers” franchise has finally become mediocre.
As your average disposal comedy, “Little Fockers” works. But it never even approaches the quality of “Meet the Fockers” much less that film’s predecessor “Meet the Parents.” The laughs are few and far between, the storyline is mundane at best and the charm is missing altogether.
Having said that, “Little Fockers” is worth seeing this holiday season if only to spend 98 more minutes with these quirky characters before they disappear forever. After all, if this installment is any indication, the franchise is most definitely over.
Or, at least, it should be. Hollywood has a history of not knowing when to quit. Or it at least knows how to ruin a good thing.
Ben Stiller returns as Greg Focker, who now has two children with his loving wife Pam (Teri Polo). Better yet, it appears as though, after 10 years, Greg is finally getting a little respect from Pam’s father Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro).
However, when the cash-strapped Greg takes a job moonlighting for a drug company in order to supplement his pay as a nurse, Jack’s suspicions come back more vehement as ever – especially when he finds out that Greg is working with a beautiful, young pharmaceutical rep (Jessica Alba).
Greg simply does not have time to deal with his father-in-law’s insecurities this time around, though. He is too busy trying to impress the headmistress (Laura Dern) of a prestigious private preschool while keeping his contractor (Harvey Keitel) on track with work on his dream home.
Still, Jack persists. And as Greg and Pam’s twins’ birthday party approaches, the Focker-Byrnes clan – including Diana (Blythe Danner), Bernie (Dustin Hoffman), Roz (Barbara Streisand) and Kevin (Owen Wilson) – clashes yet again.
While screenwriters John Hamburg and Larry Stuckey pack on the second- and third-tier characters and subplots – so many that the film feels more like a circus than a motion picture – the majority of “Little Fockers” deals with the fractured relationship between Greg and Jack.
And although it is nice to see the story return to its simple roots, it feels as though the screenwriters are taking advantage of our appreciation for these characters by not putting much effort into the plot, let alone the jokes.
There is the occasional amusing reference to the memorable gags featured in the first two flicks but this installment’s sense of humor is preoccupied with sight-gags that are a bit too over-the-top – which is saying a lot considering the eccentricity of the “Fockers” franchise to date.
Tack on the banal storyline about suspicions of infidelity as a result of tired misunderstandings and it is impossible for “Little Fockers” to live up to the quality set by its two predecessors. The fact that the film wastes the talents of both Dern and Keitel only make matters worse.
Yet, a lot of these criticisms may come as a direct result of our high expectations of the “Fockers” franchise. If “Little Fockers” were not attached to two of the most outstanding comedies released in the last 10 years, we might be a little more forgiving of its flaws.
After all, director Paul Weitz still encourages the audience to simply be entertained by the antics of this cool cast of characters that has tickled our funny-bones while also touching our hearts. And, if it were any other comedy, that alone would be more than enough.
“Little Fockers” (PG-13 – 98 minutes) is now playing at movie theaters throughout the Valley. Visit NCM.com for specific showtimes and locations.
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