Little Fockers. Starring Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba and Owen Wilson. Directed by Paul Weitz. Rated M (sexual references and comedic violence). 97 mins.
Filmgoers who find the double entendre of the title amusing may well enjoy this third (and avowedly final) movie in the successful series that began with Meet the Parents in 2000 and continued four years later with Meet the Fockers. Jay Roach, director of the first two, gets credit as producer of the third, handing directing chores over to Paul Weitz.
This time, Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and his wife, Pam (Teri Polo), are preparing for the fifth birthday of their twins but, despite the title, the movie is more concerned with the deteriorating relationship between Greg and his father-in-law Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro). Jack, an uptight retired CIA agent, thinks Greg, a male nurse by profession, is unworthy of his daughter, and doesn’t pass up any opportunity to destabilise the marriage.
In this, the advent of Andi Garcia (Jessica Alba), a vivacious pharmacy representative, sows suspicion of infidelity on Greg’s part when she signs him up to spruik the merits of a new Viagra–type drug she is promoting (this gives rise to a few erectile jests, which seem somehow complementary to the breaking wind and projectile vomiting moments).
Stiller is in good form as Greg, but, forgive me, I see little that’s funny in De Niro doing comedy. Yes, he plays it all deadpan in the time-honoured tradition, but I detect no comic sensibility behind the stone face. He just comes across as mean and grumpy.
Blythe Danner is back as Jack’s wife, and also reprising their roles from earlier films in the series are Owen Wilson, as Pam’s former fiancé, and Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand, as Greg’s alternative-lifestyle parents, although their contributions, along with that of Laura Dern, as the head of the Early Human School (“the Harvard of kindergartens”), could be chopped out without detriment to the movie. Same goes for Harvey Keitel’s appearance as a contractor. Most of their scenes seem disconnected from the main thread, and the script by John Hamburg (a writer on all three films) and Larry Stuckey is about as sensible and engaging as the average mediocre TV sitcom.
Mr Jim Murphy is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out December 26 2010