Little Fockers (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Little Fockers (2010)

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Andrew INDIFFERENTA few years ago, I dated a girl that thought Meet The Parents was the worst movie that she'd ever seen.  Now this was spoken from the persepective of someone who had not seen Bratz, Hanger, or Dumb and Dumberer so I had to take it with a grain of salt.  She felt that the film was too long and played on one painful joke, the humiliation of Ben Stiller.  Well, I enjoyed the original and I'm here to tell you that the latest sequel isn't too bad, but I'll be damned if I can't say some of that criticism still applies to the franchise some ten years later.

Ten years, I can hardly believe that it's been that long since the original Meet The Parents was released.  We just had poor Gaylord "Greg" Focker (Ben Stiller) trying to woo his fiancée Pam's (Teri Polo) parents Jack (Robert De Niro) and Dina (Blythe Danner).  Greg  proved to be a worthy suitor and a sequel was needed to cash-in on the originals massive success.  So we met Greg's parents, Bernard (Dustin Hoffman) and Rosalind (Barbara Streisand) while we watched the comedic tension unfold as the two sets of parents clashed.

Now we have the second sequel the inevitably titled, Little Fockers.  For those of you who are wondering if the children of Pam and Greg will turn out to be misbehaved devils (since the title is a barely disguised stand-in for "little fuckers") the movie will prove very disappointing.  The children are hardly the focus of this film, instead focusing on the the possibility of infidelity between Greg and the unfortunately named Andi Garcia (Jessica Alba) and the heart problems of elder Jack.  Greg's parents, wife, and his wife's estranged ex Kevin (the always welcome Owen Wilson) get almost no, very little, and too little (respectively) screen-time.

Dustin Hoffman. Laura Dern. Harvey Keitel. Robert DeNiro. *sigh* In Little Fockers.

That's basically it.  There are a series of misunderstandings that lead Jack to think that Greg is having sex with Andi (because of a magical libido freeing inhaler) and Jack's fading hope that, after a near heart attack, he is not leaving his family in good hands.  There's another side-plot involving the families attempt to get the Focker children into a private school that would make Sir Ken Robinson jump for joy.  It's in this plot that we get a little fun because of a slightly unhinged performance by Laura Dern as the school's superintendent and, apparently, one-woman admissions team.

But at this point the series gets most of it's jokes from Ben Stiller's awkwardness and his name.  Yes, his first name has "gay" in it and he and Jack are mistaken as lovers by Ms. Dern's superintendent (which, despite it's writing, turns out kind of funny thanks to the performances).  But less successful are the many mentions of "Focker" as the poor mans' "fuck".  Both puns have run their course, but there are metatextual references to the performers respective pasts are be brought up for laughs.

There's an extended sequence with Greg and Jack where Jack crowns Greg the "Godfocker".  I almost cringed but then the movie shifted it's visual queues from a bland comedy to something trying to approximate Coppola's shadows in The Godfather and, I admit, it was kind of funny.  The Jaws gags later on though?  Not so much, but a nice try with the way they're incorporated into a ball-pit.

Not even a good "You lookin' at me?" joke and the opportunity is right there for the taking.

But fun moments like that are too few and far between, and the movie lapses into it's dull pattern of "Gaylord" and "Focker" awkwardness too many times.  It's a shame, because De Niro still has some acting chops left in him if he can be bothered to care about the script, and I've enjoyed Owen Wilson's misguided crush of Pam since the first film.  Even a cameo from Harvey Keitel is completely wasted, and since the film was willing to reference older movies for a laugh, couldn't we have at least gotten some kind of Taxi Driver joke?

Then there is the horrible misuse of the women in the film.  Except for Laura Dern, who steals every scene she is in by force of insanity, they are reduced to sideline players with little commentary or idols that need their clothes ripped off.  This is the fifth movie or so in a row that Jessica Alba has been standing around in her underwear and, feel free to disagree if you need, she really deserves better.  Even Barbara Streisand's sex therapist is a bore, and if a woman of her considerable pull can't get a good role written for her here then something has gone horribly wrong.

But, the film made money and those brief moments of levity were smarter than most of Meet The Fockers.  The formula has proven durable, and we may see some grand-Fockers around before you know it.  I just hope that the filmmakers have the guts to just go full-throttle with the cinema parodies next time, because hinging a movie around "Gaylord" being funny to hear won't last a fourth round.

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Little Fockers (2010)

Directed by Paul Weitz.
Screenplay by John Hamburg and Larry Stuckey.
Starring an ensemble cast with Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro.

Posted by Andrew

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