Monday, January 3, 2011

The "F" Word

The best thing I can say about Little Fockers is that it gave me exactly what I expected, that being a few laughs and an excellent opportunity to take a nap which, sadly, I did not do. This should not come as a surprise as the two previous films in this series (if you don't know what they are, I will not burden you with knowledge of their existence) were exactly the same in terms of tone and quality.

Once again, some of the finest actors working today teamed up to make a shining example of mediocrity and, of course, were rewarded with a huge box office gross that means we'll be treated to Bigger Fockers, President Focker and Fockers in Space in years to come so we have that to look forward to.

Once again, Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller play a former CIA agent Jack Byrnes and his nurse son-in-law Greg Focker. The animosity between them has been lessened by time and the birth of grandchildren and they're now quite friendly with and comfortable around each other. The pending divorce of Jack's other daughter from her cheating husband has caused him to form an even tighter bond with Greg but it has also made him extra sensitive to any sort of sign that Greg might also be cheating. Enter Jessica Alba as a sexy drug company representative full of flirtatious pep and prone to excessive hugging. Oddly, I've been assured that her character is the most realistic part of the movie and that her behavior, which seemed inappropriate to me, was exactly what young, female drug reps do when trying to convince doctors and hospital officials to purchase their products. I guess this means Jessica Alba finally has a shot at an Oscar. Anyway, the Three's Company-style plot really takes off when Jack realizes that Greg has (understandably) downplayed the looks of his new business associate to his wife. This arouses his heightened suspicions and begins a series of circumstances based on huge misunderstandings that are equal parts wacky and zany and ends with Owen Wilson in tights and a cat barfing up a lizard.

In their crusade to bury the reputations of every actor who was famous in the 70s and is now one of our most beloved and respected talents today, the producers have managed to get Barbra Streisand, Dustin Hoffman and Blythe Danner to reprise the roles they developed in the last two movies and also got Harvey Keitel to join the cast and join his fellow veterans in this death march of their careers. Laura Dern's in it too and probably some other people I forgot. This is Judgment At Nuremberg level casting for a movie that includes a scene in which Ben Stiller has to inject Robert DeNiro's penis while a 5 year old boy looks on. I really hope there's not an unrated version of that scene on the DVD.

When a comedy has a ridiculous sitcom plot like this, it has to be really funny to make up for it. Little Fockers has a few funny moments but not enough of them. Sadly, my opinion was not shared by the millions who made this movie #1 during the biggest movie going season of the year but that's the way it goes. As the success of past films like Four Christmases shows, holiday audiences love inoffensive family films and that "funny" is not a requirement they list when choosing whether or not to view a comedy.

So, that's that. The latest chapter in the never ending Focker story is out and that's the best thing you can say about it. See you all in a few years when Ben Stiller leaves the series and is replaced by Vince Vaughn in the movie Uncle Focker.