‘Little Fockers’: Enjoyable but Uneven Sequel

Sunday, December 19, 2010
By Rick Duran
Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller in 'Little Fockers'

Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller in 'Little Fockers'

Ben Stiller leads an overstuffed cast in Little Fockers, a project that works best when treading familiar ground.

Greg Focker (Stiller) is put in a rare moment of trust with father-in-law Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro), when he is elevated to the runner-up position for the family matriarch following the divorce of Byrne’s other daughter. Following a health scare, Jack attempts to form a new bond with Greg, preparing him for his new role as “The GodFocker.” Little Fockers follows the rocky path stemming from that strained relationship, as Greg reexamines his life now as a father in his 40s.

The film revisits the awkward tensions between Stiller and De Niro from Meet the Parents, as the two actors slip into the repertoire that should please fans looking for simple laughs. Both are in familiar form, delivering many of the film’s best aspects. In fact, it’s the moments trying to add to that successful format that don’t quite add up. Dustin Hoffman’s well-documented reshoot-inserted cameo plays to little effect. His Bernie Focker is scattered into scenes, conveniently absent due to a “trip to Spain,”  offering no relevance to the story’s progression. Likewise, Barbara Streisand’s Roz Focker (now a talk show host) also offers little impact beyond setting a couple of plot points leading to Jack’s suspicions of Greg.

lfockers-alba

Jessica Alba

In fact, one of Little Fockers‘ main problems is a wasted abundance of talent. Harvey Keitel is completely underused in an early cameo, while Blythe Danner and Teri Polo are yet again relegated to the “look shocked and upset” limitations from the previous films. One missed opportunity is keeping rising comic stars Rob Huebel (I Love You, Man) and Nick Kroll (Get Him to the Greek) almost completely silent in thankless cameos that could have offered fresh laughs in the hands of other filmmakers.

One major bright spot in the cast is Jessica Alba, playing a male enhancement drug rep who recruits Nurse Greg Focker as her company’s new spokesperson. Alba offers a sexy playfulness, providing a fun “mid-life crisis” to a suddenly confident Greg. Likewise, Fockers fans will be happy to see Owen Wilson’s Kevin upgraded to his longest screentime in the series yet, once again showing frustrated Jack Byrnes the life his daughter could have had. Wilson gets to have his most physical comedy onscreen since Zoolander, giving the film one of its funniest performances. Audiences will also fall in love with Greg’s twins, particularly mischievous son Henry Focker (Colin Baiocchi.) Kevin Hart (40 Year-Old Virgin) also provides some quick laughs, playing Greg’s hospital co-worker.

Owen Wilson

Owen Wilson

Little Fockers is a mixed bag of results, now in the hands of director Paul Weitz (American Pie, About A Boy), the first film in the franchise not helmed by Jay Roach. The difference is felt heavily some of the film’s largest comedic set pieces, including the turkey carving and ball pit scenes featured in the advertisements, playing a little too broad, not reaching the more successful laughs in the first two films. Likewise, the entire “GodFocker” premise is forced, not as organic as a foundation as Greg meeting Jack, or the introduction of Bernie and Roz Focker to the Byrnes’. The film’s comedic performances by Stiller, De Niro, Alba and Wilson carry it for enough laughs to do steady box office, but audiences will probably be disappointed by its rushed Third Act. Spoiler alert: there are several open plotholes, cheating the audience on closure for storylines of several main characters.  Although the series’ main focus, the ongoing battle between Jack and Greg, is now showing grey hairs, it would be nice to see Jay Roach return to the director’s chair, wrapping up the Fockers story with a more satisfying structure.

*** (3/5)

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3 Responses to “‘Little Fockers’: Enjoyable but Uneven Sequel”

  1. Kevin Crossman

    Glad to see Owen back in a major role

    #6786
  2. Mario_B

    What’s this I hear about a fourth Focker movie? With Will Ferrell possibly joining? The interviewer must be thinking of 2oolander, right?

    http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/showbiz/celebrity-interviews/2010/12/17/we-tried-to-use-our-own-experiences-in-little-fockers-says-star-ben-stiller-86908-22789919/

    #6791
  3. Rick

    A 4th film wouldn’t surprise me, but that article has to be mistaking it for Zoolander.

    #6806

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