When 2000's sharp and slapsticky Meet the Parents was followed up with 2004's excruciating Meet the Fockers, it was disappointing to see something so promising destroyed with cheap gags and lazy writing. With Little Fockers, though, a threequel nobody asked for and that the actors seem mortified to be part of, it's just getting pathetic. Though it's not entirely as bad as the promos would suggest-- Owen Wilson still gets some good lines as the holier-than-thou ex-boyfriend, and Laura Dern has some sly fun in a small role-- it's an enormous step down even from Meet the Fockers, and I honestly didn't think that was possible.
After expending the energy to round up the adult cast and pay them enough to not actively scowl onscreen, the people behind Little Fockers couldn't be bothered to write an actual script, instead stringing together a series of gags and embarrassments largely revolving around bodily functions. There's one storyline about getting the kids into a fancy elementary school called the Early Human School (led by Dern's hippy-dippy headmaster) that's abandoned after culminating in a gay joke, and another slightly more extended plot about the twins's 5th birthday party, which ends in all of the adult characters acting like idiot children. The closest thing the movie has to a driving narrative is an erectile dysfunction drug called Sustengo, which Greg (Ben Stiller) starts selling on the side at the urging of a comely drug rep (Jessica Alba), and which father-in-law Jack (Robert De Niro) takes one night while visiting the grandkids. Like the school plotline, though, the movie abandons it as soon as it wrings out the cheap final gag, in this case Greg jabbing his father-in-law's groin with a needle to reduce the, er, extended Sustengo symptoms. Even by the standard of penis jokes, it's a broad and crude moment that's inexplicably played as hilarious.
Every now and then Little Fockers extends small mercies, like ending a projectile vomiting gag on what amounts to a decent comic note, or only bringing in Dustin Hoffman for a few mugging moments near the end rather than shoehorning him into entire film. But every time you think you've experienced the worst, you watch De Niro and a visibly defeated Harvey Keitel face off in a meaningless backyard fight, or watch Owen Wilson try to make out with Barbra Streisand, or watch De Niro and Stiller punch each other in a children's ballpit. The sick joy of Meet the Parents was in seeing these otherwise reasonable adults engage in silly behavior over a totally relatable rivalry; in Little Fockers everyone has turned into a gross caricature of a human being, either unbearably mean or lascivious or hammy to the point that you actively root for their demise. You can't get out of their company fast enough.
Paul Weitz, who has directed many good-if-flawed comedies in the past, takes over for previous franchise director Jay Roach here, and seems to have no ability to rein in any of his stars from falling back on their broadest comedic instincts. Of course he's not helped at all John Hamburg and Larry Stuckey's script, which is either utter nonsense or so tweaked and trimmed by star demands and studio notes that there was no script at all (I tend to believe the latter). With its reliance on easy gags and utter lack of narrative Little Fockers feels so uninspired it's a wonder it even exists at all.
Reviewed By: Katey Rich
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