by Roxana Hadadi
Nearly everyone associated with “Little Fockers” deserves better. Its stars, Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro, should have gotten funnier jokes and less immature gags, and its viewers should have gotten the same, too. Both groups suffer from the lack of adult humor in a series built around just that.
A sequel to 2000’s “Meet the Parents” and 2004’s “Meet the Fockers,” “Little Fockers” returns us to the saga of the Fockers and the Byrneses, two families joined together by marriage and with little else in common. During the course of two films, we’ve seen Byrnes patriarch Jack (De Niro) glare and huff at son-in-law Greg (Stiller), who can never seem to measure up to Byrnes’s impossible standards. The retired CIA operative mocks Greg’s career as a male nurse, hooks him up to a lie detector test to grill him on his background and is perturbed by his bizarro parents, the sex-obsessed Roz (Barbra Streisand) and overly affectionate Bernie (Dustin Hoffman). Over the years, Jack and Greg have mustered up some kind of grudging respect for each other – but with “Little Fockers,” that’s yet again tested.
With Greg and Pam (Teri Polo) now married and the parents of twins, things are stressful enough – but Greg’s responsibilities at the hospital are overwhelming, too. Though he’s now the leader of his own unit, he’s making less than he was as a nurse, and with renovations underway at the single-family home the Fockers plan to move into from their cramped apartment, stress is high. And things only get worse when Jack – worried about his heart problems – makes an unexpected phone call, checking to see if Greg is ready to become “The GodFocker,” the eventual patriarch of their family, now that Pam’s sister’s husband has left her.
Greg jumps at the challenge – this isn’t the same guy who whimpered and flailed at Jack’s pushiness in “Meet the Parents” – but handling the familial responsibility isn’t easy when coupled with his new gig as a guest speaker for a pharmaceutical company’s erectile dysfunction drug. Paired up with Andi Garcia (Jessica Alba), the drug rep, to sell the product to doctors in the region, Greg finds himself working longer hours and having to lie to Pam about Andi’s attractiveness – behavior that piques Jack’s always-present interest. And when Jack’s interested, we all know what happens – stupid stuff.
Unfortunately, most of the film is all about that stupid stuff, far dumber than we’ve seen in the previous flicks in the franchise. “Meet the Parents” had a lot of jokes about Greg’s real name, Gaylord, while “Meet the Fockers” focused on Roz’s and Bernie’s sexual behavior – you would expect something new from “Little Fockers,” but alas. There are potty-mouthed children, silly sexual situations, gross medical maladies and not anything that is humorous in a new or ingenious way. Viewers have heard jokes about erections and vaginas before, and “Little Fockers” treads that same tired territory.
Perhaps if anything really happened in the film, it would be easier to stomach the repetitive jokes and storylines. But while “Meet the Parents” and “Meet the Fockers” had definitive plots – read the films’ titles and you’ll understand them – “Little Fockers” never really seems to know what it’s supposed to be about. Jack grills Greg on the status of his relationship with Pam, but she’s given such a scant role in the movie that it’s hard to believe Greg when he says they’re happy together. Their kids act out – with Henry (Colin Baiocchi) asking at the dinner table, “Can a girl poop from her vagina?” – but if the film were truly about the Fockers’ parenting, shouldn’t there have been more instances of the family being together? And though Greg is tested, both by Jack’s doubt and overzealous affection from the drug-popping Andi, the times when he asserts himself drag. A scene in the hospital after Henry fractures his arm lasts far too long and is only humorous when egotistical investment banker Kevin (Owen Wilson), Greg’s best friend and Pam’s ex-fiance, compares his speaking skills to Jesus Christ’s. Nothing else is worth a laugh.
If you want jokes that miss the mark, though, “Little Fockers” has plenty of those. From an uncomfortable scene where Andi and Greg team up on giving an enema to a patient and Andi oozes peppy excitement – using the word “dope” far too often – and another where Greg has to administer a shot of adrenaline into Jack’s penis to counteract the effects of an erectile dysfunction drug, the gags are pure potty humor. It’s all stuff a child could laugh at, but of course they shouldn’t be anywhere near this theater; the numerous jokes about sex, masturbation and the male and female bodies may be OK for really old teens, but even that’s iffy. This is really a film series for adults, and with “Little Fockers,” it stays that way.
There’s also a scene with lots of blood after Greg accidentally cuts his figure carving a turkey; projectile vomit during a dinner scene; and much cursing.
It’s not that “Little Fockers” is completely without charming moments: The dynamic between Stiller and De Niro is still as good as ever, especially when Greg mans up after becoming “The GodFocker” and mimics much of the behavior from the film series De Niro was a part of, and Wilson, Streisand and Hoffman are still enjoyable in their complete absurdity. But as the latest installment of an already-quite-funny franchise geared mainly toward adults, the immaturity of “Little Fockers” doesn’t cut it.