Ben Stiller, Robert DeNiro, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, Dustin Hoffman, Teri Polo DIRECTED BY
Paul Weitz SCREENPLAY
John Hamburg, Larry Stuckey MPAA RATING
Rated PG-13 RUNNING TIME
95 Mins. DISTRIBUTED BY
Universal Pictures DVD EXTRAS
Alternate Opening: Wedding Dream and Morning Wakeup
Alternate Ending: Treehouse
The Making of A Godfocker: Behind the Scenes of Little Fockers
It saddens me to think that in a year when Ben Stiller turned in one of his career best performances in the vastly underseen and under-rated Greenberg, it will be this Focker of a retread that will garner the attention and the box-office receipts for the actor.
Little Fockers is a retread in virtually every sense of the word, a shameless attempt to squeeze a few more millions out of what was once a cute, appealing and winning novelty idea that has now been stripped of nearly all its good will, originality and spark. Only the most diehard fans of the original two films in the series, Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers, will find any delight in this film that purports to be about the Focker children but which leaves the kids in the background for most of the film in favor of yet another round of Byrnes vs. Focker.
Is there ever any doubt how this will all end? Of course not.
The entire original cast returns for this third and hopefully final flick, led by Ben Stiller's paint-by-numbers turn as Greg Focker, still married to Pam (Teri Polo) and father of twins, a daughter (Daisy Tahan) who won't speak to him and a son (Colin Baiocchi) who may be a bit too much like him. With the fifth birthday of the twins right around the corner, of course, we're due for a visit from Jack (DeNiro) and Dina (Blythe Danner) along with both of Greg's parents, Roz (Barbra Streisand) and Bernie (Dustin Hoffman). Of course, longtime Greg adversary Kevin (Owen Wilson) will show up to once again fuel their faux rivalry and, just for good measure, we have tossed in Andi (Jessica Alba), a drug rep selling an erectile dysfunction drug called Sustengo and eyeing Greg as one of their reps.
The central conflict that drives Little Fockers is that Jack now eyes Greg to become the family's patriarch (C'mon, say it with me..."The Godfocker!", which is mildly amusing the first time it is used) once Jack finally kicks the bucket, at least that's his choice now that the beloved Dr. Bob has entered the family hall of shame by separating from Pam's sister. This, of course, leads to a series of tasks, spyings, tests, etc. and, of course, initially Greg fails most of them.
Sigh. Really? This is the best we could do?
Little Fockers is not nearly as bad as most critics are going to report, despite being an incredible disappointment even based upon the modest expectations birthed out of the last film. The simple truth is that those of you who've grown attached to these characters may very well find enough here to amuse yourself for a holiday weekend matinee and some of you may even consider it a more pleasant alternative than spending Christmas with the family. The chief concern out of a film billing itself as Little Fockers is that there's an implied family flavor to it that is woefully missing from the film, which features more double entendres, innuendos and outright sexual humor than the previous two flicks combined. While there's nothing particularly offensive in the film (Who can be offended by the obligatory Alba undies shot?), Little Fockers simply isn't about the littlest Fockers...no matter that co-writers John Hamburg and Larry Stuckey toss in a sloppy storyline about the twins trying to get into the Early Human School led by a stereotypical administrator (a tremendously stifled Laura Dern).
Rumor has it that Dustin Hoffman was the last to sign on for this third flick in the series, undoubtedly a gut instinct he now wishes he'd respected. Director Paul Weitz replaces Jay Roach, and while he tries to salvage some humor from the goings on this film feels stale long before the closing credits scroll by.
DeNiro, in particular, is damaged by his return to this sort of lame comedy after finally returning to decent drama earlier this year in Stone, a performance that had longtime fans salivating that perhaps the actor was returning to meat-and-potatoes cinema. While he and Stiller do offer one of the film's few original scenes involving Susteno, it's too little and far too late.
Little Fockers, as formulaic as it is, would have been infinitely more successful if Weitz had just stuck to the formula with a solidly PG-rated flick involving the Focker children and moved the emphasis away from the tired conflict between Greg and Jack. While the familiar cast and characters may very well be enough to give Little Fockers decent holiday box-office, when a cinematic series starts resorting celebrity cameos instead of actual filmmaking then it's time to close up shop and move on to something else.
If you really must watch a Stiller flick this holiday season, why not stay in and rent Greenberg instead?