Universal // 2010 // 98 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // March 30th, 2011
Kids bring everyone closer, right?
Jack: "I'm watching you."
Greg: "Yeah, well I have eyes too, so I'll be watching you watching me."
The life of Greg Focker (Ben Stiller, Night at the Museum) continues to be an exceedingly stressful one. After surviving the ordeal of hazing courtesy of his father-in-law Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver) in Meet the Parents and surviving the clash between the Byrnes and his own parents (Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man and Barbara Streisand, The Prince of Tides) in Meet the Fockers, Greg is now dealing with the day-to-day challenges of raising children with his wife Pam (Teri Polo, Beyond Borders).
That job is hectic enough, but life gets a little crazier when Jack suffers a mild heart attack. Fearing that his days may be numbered, Jack taps Greg as the next family patriarch -- the "godfocker," if you will. Between feeling pressure to live up to his new role, collaborating on an important work assignment with the attractive Andi Garcia (Jessica Alba, Fantastic Four), attempting to get his children into an expensive daycare, trying to persuade a contractor (Harvey Keitel, Bad Lieutenant) to finish his new house on schedule and dealing with the return of Pam's still-flirty ex-boyfriend Kevin (Owen Wilson, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou), Greg's life is boiling over with tension. As you might expect, many wacky hijinks ensue.
It's particularly tempting to beat up on a film like Little Fockers. Sure, it's a crummy comedy, but its biggest sin is just how flagrantly it wastes the talents of its prestigious cast. When you manage to get Robert De Niro, Blythe Danner, Harvel Keitel, Laura Dern, Dustin Hoffman, and Barbra Streisand together in the same film (not to mention Ben Stiller, Teri Polo, Owen Wilson, and Jessica Alba), you expect something worth seeing. For cinephiles, there's a sense of deep sadness at seeing De Niro and Keitel bluster their way through a clumsily written confrontation in Little Fockers. It's a bad scene, but when you remember that these guys were in Taxi Driver together, it transforms the moment into a crime against humanity.
Still, let's give the movie its due. There's no question that Little Fockers is a bad movie, but you know, it's not quite at the bottom of the barrel. It's close, but I've seen worse. I don't want to see Little Fockers again, but at least it never caused the sort of mental anguish inspired by alternately grating and offensive rubbish like My Best Friend's Girl and The Accidental Husband. Little Fockers is just a big, dumb, stupid comedy performed with forced enthusiasm by an overqualified cast.
The basic problem is that there are very few moments in the film that are rooted in any kind of relatable, real-world conflict. Meet the Parents was hardly a masterpiece, but at least it tapped into an exaggerated version of the often-tense relationship between a young man and his future father-in-law. Meet the Fockers took the series off the rails by taking the existing characters to even more cartoonish levels and creating in the Fockers characters who were parodies of parodies of parodies of sexually liberated hippies. Little Fockers continues the trend of trying to top its predecessor by amping up the absurdity, but at this point it's beginning to feel like a string of non-sequiturs jammed into a cinematic washing machine.
Consider the new character played by Jessica Alba, for instance. Let's go ahead and accept the fact that a rich woman who looks like Jessica Alba would spend her days hitting on male nurse who looks like Ben Stiller. Let's also accept the fact that this woman has some sort of strange addiction to male sexual performance-enhancing drugs which make her horny and aggressive. Let's also accept that these drugs would cause her to push the Ben Stiller character into a deep mud pit, then cause her to take a flying leap into the pit and knock herself unconscious. Okay. The next morning, she wakes up with a horrible hangover and realizes how foolish her behavior has been. She crawls out of the pit, wearing naught but her underwear. Then a man she doesn't know approaches her and within seconds has asked her to dance a flamenco with him. That she would cheerfully oblige this request is so incredibly bewildering.
That sort of thing is happening all over the place in Little Fockers (the scene where De Niro pretends to be the shark from Jaws while fighting with Stiller in a large tub of plastic balls immediately comes to mind). The characters are too cartoonish at this point to relate to, and the wild events that occur are so forced and random that they simply fail to generate any comic momentum (consider as an alternative David O. Russell's Flirting with Disaster, which produces absurdities in a hilariously organic manner). Most of the performers are at least willing to put some energy into their work, but I can't honestly say that any of them manage to rise above the material (De Niro and Alba probably have the largest share of embarrassing moments, though in De Niro's case that has to do with his large amount of screen time and in Alba's case it has to do with the horrible character she's been given).
At least Little Fockers looks decent, sporting a perfectly respectable 1080p/1.85:1 transfer. While the palette is that typically sunny, generic family comedy look (just another element that prevents the film from feeling distinctive), the level of detail is solid, flesh tones are warm and accurate and darker scenes benefit from acceptable black levels. The audio is actually pretty good, as a few of the more manic scenes prove surprisingly immersive. The bouncy score (Randy Newman apparently couldn't take any more of this rubbish, so we're stuck with Stephen Trask attempting to impersonate Newman's sound) comes through with strength and clarity. Extras tend to be brief and superficial, particularly the featurettes: "The Making of the Godfocker" (15 minutes), "Bob and Ben" (4 minutes), "Ben and Owen" (5 minutes) and "Bout Time" (5 minutes). You also get an alternate opening, alternate ending, deleted scenes, a gag reel, My Scenes, BD-Live, and a "Focker Foot Locker" which offers clips of every time the word "Focker" is used over the course of the three films (sigh). You also get a DVD and a digital copy of the film.
Insert lame, casually dismissive remark making not-so-clever use of the word "focker" here.
Review content copyright © 2011 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (French)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Alternate Opening
* Alternate Ending
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel
* Focker Foot Locker
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy
* My Scenes