"Fockers" just a paycheck for De Niro, Streisand
By Todd McCarthy
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - "Little Fockers" is focking dismal.
Clearly nothing but a paycheck project for all concerned, this is definitely the least and hopefully the last of a franchise that started amusingly enough a decade ago but has now officially overstayed its welcome. Still, this won't stop quite a few folks from parting with some bucks in search of some holiday season yucks, the majority of them from jokes that could have originated on men's room walls. The Universal release opens Wednesday.
The title of this unsavory hodgepodge is misleading, in that very little time is spent with the twin sprigs of Greg and Pam Focker. After attention shifted in the second installment, 2004's "Meet the Fockers," to the enjoyably hedonistic seniors played by Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand, the focus has here reverted to the tension between Ben Stiller's distracted male nurse and his intimidating father-in-law, Jack, played by Robert De Niro, who wants Greg to man up to his responsibilities and become the clan's "godfocker."
Providing the distraction for Greg is Jessica Alba's Andi Garcia (yes, much mileage is made of her name), a hot-to-trot drug company rep who, for inexplicable reasons, decides that Greg would be the perfect guy to promote Sustengo, an erectile disfunction drug. This one plot element not only sets the very low tenor of most of the film's gags, but also introduces the possibility that Andi might lead Greg astray, which she could no doubt accomplish without the help of her product.
But the suspense generated by the threat to Greg's fidelity is nothing compared to the breathless excitement created by the momentum leading up to the film's climactic event -- the twins' fifth birthday party. For this, of course, all four grandparents must travel to the Focker abode in Chicago, with Greg's dad, Bernie (Hoffman), needing to come in all the way from Spain, where the old lech has taken up flamenco dancing.
Greg's filthy rich pal Kevin (Owen Wilson) is rescued from matrimony to a predatory Russian bride to host the birthday event on a grand scale at his estate, the only unexpected fruit of which is a little makeout scene between Wilson and Streisand.
But lest we forget the pervasive influence of Sustengo, it is responsible for no end of lewd remarks as well as for the film's big stab at an outrageous setpiece, Having visibly acquired the desired results, Jack needs quick relief from his condition, something only Greg can provide with an injection in the relevant area. And then they're caught in the act.
Anchored by humor of this nature, the film will probably be a big favorite in retirement homes and with mainstream audiences of a certain age. But screenwriters John Hamburg and Larry Stuckey have hardly strained themselves trying to come up with fresh gags, while director Paul Weitz, stepping in for Jay Roach, pushes haphazardly from one frantic incident to the next.
The series' veterans know what's expected of them, so suffering most from this lack of special care is series newcomer Alba, who is made to look foolish as her Andi relentlessly pursues Greg to the brink, as if there weren't some more suitable guy upon whom she could bestow her favors. Laura Dern shows up briefly in a mocking turn as the director of a New Age-y institution called "Early Human School."
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