And I thought "How Do You Know" was going to be the worst film of the year…
"Little Fockers" is a terrible, terrible film, a blatant money grab made to capitalize on the success and remembered laughs of the first two films, DeNiro and Stiller should be ashamed. Do the two stars need money bad enough to justify this horrible excuse for a comedy? I hope not. And let's face it, without either of the two stars, this movie would never have been made. That and the fact DeNiro's company produced these films makes the two stars solely responsible for this drek.
Greg and Pam Focker (Stiller and Teri Polo) are getting ready to move into a new house, but the contractor (Harvey Keitel (WTF?)) is taking his own sweet time. This puts the plans for their twins', the Little Fockers (Daisy Tohan and Colin Baiocchi) fifth birthday party in jeopardy. The same birthday party also brings Grandpa Jack (DeNiro) and Grandma Dina (Blythe Danner) to town. Jack has just had a mild heart attack and enlists Greg's help in keeping the secret. Jack is also reeling from the news his other son-in-law, Dr. Bob, the Barnes' family heir apparent has had an affair. Jack turns to Greg. But he has some criteria for Greg to meet before the honor is bestowed; he has to get his 'financial house' in order and provide a top-notch education for his children. The first allows for Jessica Alba to enter the story, the second provides an excuse for Laura Dern. Naturally, Kevin (Owen Wilson, also in "How Do You Know", strange coincidence that) becomes involved and Greg's parents, Bernie and Roz (Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand) make a few strange, disjointed appearances.
Directed by Paul Weitz ("American Pie", "American Dreamz") and "written" by John Hamburg and Larry Stukey, "Little Fockers" is a painful exercise. The story works overtime to put Greg and Jack in conflict with one another, creating situations that make little or no sense. Worse, if a scene isn't obvious, it wasn't included in the film. The jokes are all telegraphed and rob the film of any shock value the film may have held. Perhaps worse of all, what would probably be the "best" joke is shown in the trailer.
Often in sequels, the filmmakers are so desperate to ensure the new film earns a sizable amount of money, they recycle material familiar with the audience. This makes a certain amount of sense; people go to a sequel because they enjoyed the original. If you are going to pay money to watch characters you already know, the story and characters need to deliver. In Hollywood speak, "deliver" translates to "familiar", "safe", "recycled". But there also comes a point when 'funny moments' are recycled one too many times. In "Meet the Parents", DeNiro delivered the "I'm watching you" line perfectly, inducing laughter and establishing the relationship between Jack and Greg with a single phrase. In "Meet the Fockers"; the joke still had some legs. In "Little Fockers", even the two leads seem to recognize the shtick is wearing thin. At one point, Greg responds "Still?" echoing, in an unfortunate way, how the audience feels at this point.
First, Jack trusts his son-in-law with a pretty important secret and he seems ready and willing to finally accept Greg. And Greg seems to realize the importance of this moment, taking Jack's words to heart. You see a glimmer of hope, a ray of sunshine. Maybe, just maybe "Little Fockers" will mine new, exciting material for laughs. But just as quickly, the story reverts to the same old, same old, dashing our hopes to bits. Jack distrusts Greg, no matter what he does. And this will never change. It is an easy way to try and get some laughs. To make Jack and Greg compatible would force them to try some uncharted waters and look for laughs in new places. As soon as Kevin enters the picture, Jack shines a light on him, as he always does, completely disregarding how weird this guy is. And the Focker grandparents (Hoffman and Streisand) are just as loosey-goosey with the sexual innuendo.
There are three additions to the cast. Jessica Alba plays Andi Garcia (a joke played to death from the moment she says her name), a rep for a pharmaceutical company. She wants Greg to become the spokesperson for the company's new Viagra-like drug. Alba is just a terrible actress and is unable to make us believe she ever has good intentions for this relationship. I get why she is cast in films, but watching her try to act is like listening to someone scrape their fingernails across a chalkboard.
Harvey Keitel plays Greg's contractor. Generally, when an actor of Keitel's caliber takes a cameo in a film, they do so because the role has a great moment, something that will stand out and cause some buzz. Keitel's character is your basic film contractor, who draws the jobs out because they never work, who creates more work by making a bigger mess. But he never says or does anything funny. Was DeNiro calling in a favor? Did Keitel need the money? Bad decision, gentlemen.
Laura Dern plays the head of the Young Humans School, a pricey private school Greg and Pam want to get their kids into. Again, her character is not funny and comes off as simply strange.
Returning to the Viagra-like drug… This leads to the most outrageous moment in the film, the moment everyone will remember. But it is played out in the trailer, so no surprises.
What is also disappointing about "Fockers" is how inconsequential the women in the film are. In fact, of the five major female characters, three involve overt sexuality in some way meant to be funny. And there is nothing else to their characters making them, in a way, worse than one-dimensional. At one point, a half-naked Alba tackles a fully clothed Stiller and they end up in a dirt pit. The next morning, the camera seems to linger on Alba's skin as she climbs out, covered in dirt and mud. In short, not very enlightened. And I am sure I just sold a few tickets or DVD rentals.
Early in the film, Greg talks to his mom and dad on the phone. But Bernie is in Spain and Roz is at her television studio in Miami. There is some excuse about Hoffman's character experiencing a midlife crisis and flying away to learn the flamenco. These scenes just seem odd. A few days after watching the film, a friend told me he read Hoffman's scenes were added after the film was made, to add some needed funny punch to the story. As soon as I heard this, everything jelled. Remember when Suzanne Sommers was trying to get a more lucrative contract in "Three's Company"? At one point, Crissy is on vacation, then she is at her dad's house visiting. Every episode contained a scene with Jack or Janet on the phone with the blond in a lame attempt to keep Sommers in the show until she could be fired. Hoffman's scenes smack of the same desperation.
"Little Fockers" offers nothing new, nothing interesting, nothing memorable and certainly nothing funny. I wish someone had warned me before buying tickets for the film. Because after sitting through the film, I simply feel a "Little Focker"ed.