Sunday, January 9, 2011

One Focker Too Many. Little Fockers: A Review



LITTLE FOCKERS

You'd think that by the third one there would be a twist in the tale. You'd think that by the time we have a second sequel the characters would have learned something, would have had some kind of change to their outlooks. However, Little Fockers has decided that what worked in the first two films (Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers) will work yet again. It is a case of diminishing returns, except that Little Fockers has proved to be financially successful.

I have to fight the temptation to say the reason for this is because people are stupid. Rather, I think the popularity of films like Little Fockers has to do with the fact that they don't require you to think. In fact, they almost demand that you turn off your brain in order to enjoy them. 

I have to start out by saying that while I have seen both Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers, I don't remember much or hold them close to my heart. Therefore, if you walk into Little Fockers without knowing anything about the Fockers or the Byrnes families, you won't actually be too lost because for no matter how long it has been since either of those films were released the characters are still the same. Retired CIA agent Jack Byrnes (Robert DeNiro) is, after all these years of knowing him, still tightly wound-up and suspicious of his son-in-law, the poorly named Gaylord "Greg" Focker (Ben Stiller), a nebbish's nebbish perpetually terrified of Jack. Their respective spouses Dina and Pam (Blythe Danner and Teri Polo) are still supportive of their husbands but almost oblivious as to how the men are with each other. Greg's parents Roz and Bernie (Barbra Steisand and Dustin Hoffmann) are still wacky sex-crazed parents oblivious as to how their antics embarrass their son. A Ghost of Fockers Past, Pam's former love interest Kevin (Owen Wilson), back for a second round for no understandable reason.

Little Fockers, ostensibly, is about how Grandpa Jack, fearing the end is near for him, wishes to pass on the mantle of Pater Familias to his closest male heir. That would be Gaylord. Greg is thrilled that Jack has finally, after all these years, given him his total trust. Of course, that isn't the case, especially when Jack discovers Greg's connection to Andi Garcia (Jessica Alba). Andi is a saleswoman for a Viagra-like drug suitable for those with heart conditions with the clever name of Sustengo.

In any case, in order to make more money, especially to pay for his children to go to Early Human School, he agrees to sell this drug in secret, and the fact that Greg is going to hotels with a beautiful woman and that there are sexual-enhancement drugs at the Focker home instantly make Jack think Andi Garcia is Greg's mistress.

For a CIA mastermind that Jack is supposed to be, he is hopelessly inept and clueless about things. Now, while the central part of Little Fockers involves the Focker twins' birthday, that is really just an excuse for hilarity and hijinks involving erections, blood letting, and Owen Wilson in a blue leotard. Dear God, what are we coming to?



Little Fockers doesn't have a plot or a reason for being other than to make some money for all concerned. I should start out by saying that during the screening I attended, not only was I fighting to stay awake but was surprised that the audience wasn't laughing. There were some chuckles here and there but by and large it didn't have the flat-out howling that accompanied something like The Hangover.

I think it comes from the fact that we've seen it all before, and perhaps John Hamburg and Larry Stuckey (who co-wrote the screenplay) figured audiences wouldn't notice or care that we were seeing the same characters doing the same thing with little sense of joy or intelligence. Greg being intimidated by Jack: check. Greg cutting himself and bleeding profusely: check. Jack scowling through every situation: check. You'd think that by now Greg would have gotten some sort of backbone, but alas, if he did, if he actually stood up for himself, we'd have no film.

The situations aren't funny, and in fact, they're actually rather sad. Rather, it's sad to see Robert DeNiro turn into Robert Dinero, cashing a nice paycheck while dragging his reputation through the mud by having Ben Stiller stick a needle into his erect penis. Did anyone think seeing the young Vito Corleone endure an erection?


Besides, if you think about it, you'd think Jack would finally have realized after his years of training that Greg is actually a good guy. Then again, if we had the characters grow up, we'd know we'd have no movie. At least Dustin Hoffman had the good sense to turn down a chance to return to the franchise, at least until he got more money. Given he was outside the events of Little Fockers throughout (even at his grandchildren's birthday party), one can see the only reason Benjamin Braddock returned was for Cash (or if he was paid with credit cards, it was for Plastic).

The performances are across the board awful, texted in to get people paid and off the set. Even smaller parts (such as Laura Dern as the Early Human School director or Harvey Keitel as a shady contractor) had nothing to do either with the story or with their roles. They were really there as excuses to put the main characters in embarrassing situations, ranging from showing the stupidity of the children to burying Jack in dirt or gravel or something, by this time I didn't care.

The worst of the performances (and that is saying a lot) was Wilson, who not only had nothing relevant to the story, whatever it was suppose to be, but has not shifted from playing these slightly-dazed and confused dudes with a pseudo-Eastern mystical bent. His wardrobe for most of Little Fockers was this quasi-Buddhist monk garb, but when he puts on that leotard, you just begin to wonder if this Wilson brother has any actual talent apart from playing himself or a variation thereof. Here, you know and worse, he knows he's just going through the motions.

In short, Little Fockers has nothing to offer even the fans of the Meet The Parents franchise. When the highest level of humor involves either making a pun on Andy Garcia's name or an erect penis, you know you've hit the bottom of the barrel.

It has nothing going for it, or the audience. I truly hope that we don't have to endure more of these films. I don't want to see I Was A Teenage Focker. I would like to know (other than for money), what compelled anyone to try to continue with this series of unfortunate films.

However, I am forgetting one of my Golden Rules of Filmmaking: Part III Will Either Be A Disaster or a Harbinger of an Even Greater Disaster. Little Fockers is, technically, a Part III. Please let it be the last.

1 comment:

  1. Another good review man, I would have to compare this to Grown Ups, because it made me laugh but I didn't have to think, although it is pretty disgusting that the son had to see his dad inject his grandpa's penis, which seemed to scar him especially at that Early Human School. At the first scene, I knew Jessica Alba was going to somehow become a kink in Ben Stiller's part in the movie down the line. As much as it was funny, it was pointless...and disturbing when Owen Wilson was wearing that blue leotard. I myself wouldn't be too harsh on the movie, I'd waffle between a D- and touching an F

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