A film review by Craig J. Koban January 4, 2011


2010, PG-13, 98 mins.

Ben Stiller: Greg Focker / Robert De Niro: Jack Byrnes / Owen Wilson: Kevin / Teri Polo: Pam / Blythe Danner: Dina / Dustin Hoffman: Bernie / Barbra Streisand: Roz / Jessica Alba: Andi / Laura Dern: Prudence / Harvey Keitel: Randy / Daisy Tahan: Samantha / Colin Baiocchi: Henry

Directed by Paul Weitz / Written by John Hamburg, Larry Stuckey and Victoria Strouse

You know that you're in trouble when the only thing that is audible in a packed theatre for 90 minutes during a comedy is the sound of people fidgeting in their seats and junk food rappers being frantically played with.  The one thing you definitely don’t want to hear is awkward silence, which regrettably filled the cinema I was in during a screening of LITTLE FOCKERS, the third - and hopefully last - film of...what shall I call it…THE FOCKERS TRILOGY. 

Unnecessary would arguably be the best descriptor of the film, directed by Paul Weitz, who oh-so-long ago made 2002’s splendid British comedy, ABOUT A BOY.  Desperation would be a close second.  Just how desperate, you may ask, is LITTLE FOCKERS?  Well, the film sets its tone very early on with the sight of R.N. Greg “Gaylord” Focker (Ben Stiller) awkwardly assisting with the insertion of a surgical tube up one obese patient’s anus.  Ho-ho.  Perhaps even more head-smackingly desperate is a late scene where Greg finally goes mano-a-mano against his terminally suspicious and paranoid father-in-law, Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro), a battle that finds its way into one of those kiddie amusement park attractions that involves a swimming pool filled with balls.  As Jack dives to in hunt Greg we hear the cords of John Williams’ legendary score for JAWS creep into the soundtrack.  The only thing else required in the background was a laugh track. 

Seriously…this is the 21st Century and I believe that there was a moratorium placed on JAWS references, like, I dunno…three decades ago.  Yet, according to the makers of LITTLE FOCKERS, references like this are topical and are a scream.  It only further reveals that this comedy only exists to serve the purpose of being a quick cash cow at the box office (remember: 2000’s MEET THE PARENTS and 2004's MEET THE FOCKERS collectively earned nearly $400 million at the box office) where all of the performers essentially go through all of the familiar motions and beats with minimal effort to get a mighty big paycheck.  There is truly nothing more this film can say about the fractured nature of the relationship between the father and son-in-law that was not already dealt with in the previous entries.  Oh wait…there is one new element:  LITTLE FOCKERS is the only film in the history of the entire medium to have the line, “You son just witnessed his father injecting a needle into his grandfather’s penis.” 

Here are the basics of the wafer thin plot:  Greg and his wife Pam (Teri Polo, now reduced to a stiff and disinterested participant) now have two little Fockers of their own in a son and daughter and Pam’s father and mother (Blythe Danner) decide to pay them a visit.  Beforehand, Jack confides in Greg that he is suffering from a heart aliment and is concerned for the future of the Byrnes/Focker clan.  This leads to another of the film’s flimsy and tired gags, where Jack asks Greg in confidence whether he would be willing to – if he were to suddenly die – take over the reigns of being a patriarch of both families and become, ahem, the “Godfocker.”  Trust me, it reads funnier. 

Of course, as was the case with the previous entries, the always watchful eyes of Jack focuses on Greg to ensure that he’s worthy enough for the new mantle, and it begins badly for poor Greg during a botched dinner, where he accidentally slices his finger with the turkey carving knife and projectile spills blood over everyone (the entire FOCKER series has always had a field day with presenting the dinner scene as a centerpiece for comic catastrophe).  Of course, this leads to further prying from Jack: there is one funny gag involving him calling up the CIA for some Intel, but they tell him that his security clearance is too old and suggest that he try Google instead.   

Other complications ensue that hurt Greg’s chance to become the Godfocker: his new home that’s being developed is being stymied by the inabilities of its foreman (played inexplicably by Harvey Keitel; did he lose a bet?) and a very important interview with a highly prestigious school for children called The Early Human School ends terribly.  Even worse is the presence of a drug company representative named, wait for it, Andi Garcia, which tips off some very predictable verbal riffs and gags (she is played with much enthusiasm and spunk by Jessica Alba that has more than a platonic interest in Greg).   She also is peddling a new Viagra like drug (Sustengo) designed for people with heart aliments, so you know – you just know – that there will be a scene with De Niro sporting a below-the-waste one-armed salute. 

Jack has his apprehensions about Greg and Andi’s relationship, which leads to the obligatory standoffs.  It culminates in a scene where Jack – for reasons too complicated to explain – decides to take Sustengo, which leads to him having a five-hour plus erection (ouch).  Since Greg is a nurse and conveniently has the required shot that Jack needs to help him, we are given a would-be uproarious moment where Greg stabs the plunger into Jack’s swollen member, which is witnessed by Greg’s son.  Hardy-har. 

Something really dawned on me all through LITTLE FOCKERS:  De Niro not only agreed to star, but also served as one of the producers here, which is kind of a double-whammy indignity for the actor of MEAN STREETS, RAGING BULL, TAXI DRIVER, and GOODFELLAS.  Does an actor of his caliber really think that this material is worth investing in a third time?  Co-stars Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand come off a bit better, seeing as they more or less are reduced to glorified cameos this go around as Greg’s creepily hedonistic parents (mother Focker now has a sex therapy show that, much to Greg’s chagrin, involves her revealing many of his early masturbation habits).  Hoffman’s role is extremely limited, seeing as he was not initially a part of principle photography and filmed his few scenes late in the production, and considering the resulting film, I can see why his participatory choices were wise. 

I greatly enjoyed what a family comedy of ill and uncomfortable manners MEET THE PARENTS was and, to an extent, MEET THE FOCKERS achieved the same high laugh rate status quo.  Alas, in LITTLE FOCKERS were are reduced to lots of lame and dreary jokes involving sexual innuendo and body parts, infantile gross out humor involving flatulence and stream vomiting, and other lowest common denominator pratfalls that seem more akin to the resume of Adam Sandler.  Then, of course, we get the painfully predictable and dumb jokes regarding Greg’s last name, which were side-splittingly funny the first go-around and moderately amusing the second go-around.  This time, though, the attempt at draining out chuckles out of various permutations of the name Focker is both cheap and juvenile.  I mean…enough already.  We get it.  Honestly, we do.  His name sounds an awful lot like the words "Fuck" and "Fucker".

And speaking of enough: how about a new and fresh arc to this series?  We have twice now seen how Jack begins to distrust Greg so much that he engages in clandestine missions to sabotage him that unavoidably leads to confrontations, accusations, and a climatic quarrel that, in turn,  inevitably leads to them making up.  I am tired of seeing the pair lock horns yet again in a witless script on pure autopilot.  There are limitlessly talented people on board here:  they honestly did not all reach a consensus that the screenplay of LITTLE FOCKERS was worth investing and participating in…right? 

I will say this: I liked two things in this mournfully pointless comedy, the first being Alba’s attempts to inject some much needed chirpiness and high-spirited vitality into this worn-out series (that, and we get to see her in bra and panties, which is a bit of all right).  Secondly, Owen Wilson returns as Kevin, a former lover of Pam’s that shows up at inopportune times in Greg’s life, dishing out passive Zen-hippie philosophy whenever he sees fit, much to Greg's consternation.  He also has many peculiar hobbies outside of his job as an investment banker, like carpentry, meditative healing, and Cirque du Soleil-styled acrobatic performing arts.  He has the two funniest zingers in the film that only the seditious and dry Wilson can utter.  “You leave Deepak Chopra out of this,” during a confrontation with Greg and, earlier on, he reveals how fulfilling his job is at a soup kitchen.  “While I was busy feeding their stomachs, those bums and transients were busy feeding my soul.”  Now that's...dare I say... focking funny.


CrAiGeR's other

Film Reviews


MEET THE FOCKERS (2004)  jjj


And, for what it's worth, CrAiGeR's  ranking of all of the FOCKERS TRILOGY films:

1. MEET THE PARENTS (2000) jjj1/2

2. MEET THE FOCKERS (2004) jjj

3. LITTLE FOCKERS (2010) j1/2



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