MacGuffin Film Review – Little Fockers

Film Review – Little Fockers

What the fock?

Little Fockers (2010) continues to repeat a joke that wasn’t funny even in Meet the Parents (2000). Let’s just get this out of the way: yes, Ben Stiller’s character is named Gaylord Focker. Yes, he has a first name that hasn’t been around since the Civil War. Yes, his last name sounds a lot like the curse word. Yes, he is a male nurse. Can we get over it now? Throughout the course of the “Focker Trilogy,” we’ve been subjected to more joke variations of this guy’s name than I can think of, none of which is very clever or amusing. Here, the filmmakers attempt to take the series away from the flamboyant craziness of Meet the Fockers (2004), and try to bring it back more along the lines of the first film. Unfortunately, they did it almost too well, because essentially, the two are the exact same.

The plot here is basically non-existent. In its place is a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings that attempt boldly to make us laugh, succeeding occasionally, but failing frequently. Now, I’m not an expert on the intricacies of comedy, but I do know (more often than not) it’s funnier when the person wearing the ridiculous hat doesn’t know that they are wearing the ridiculous hat. If someone takes what he or she is doing completely straight faced, it’s funny because we are in on the joke and they’re not. Once a person realizes that they are trying to make us laugh, they immediately cease being funny. That’s the case here, where there are countless scenes of characters in over-the-top situations, basically telling the audience “Look at me! Aren’t I being funny?! Laugh at the crazy position that I’m in!” It’s like that old uncle who tells you a joke, and when you don’t laugh, decides to explain the joke to you or even repeat it multiple times in a desperate search for a chuckle.

But let’s back up. It’s been nearly six years since the last time we saw Greg Focker and his overbearing father in law, Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro). Greg has moved up in the ranks of the nursing world to become the head of his department, and Jack has settled into a life of retirement. At the moment, things seem to be going well. Things take a turn when we learn that Jack’s other son-in-law, Dr. Bob (Thomas McCarthy) has left his other daughter. Jack takes this separation personally, as he feels responsible for his family’s entire well being. As a result, the vengeful eye of Jack focuses intensely on Greg, watching his every move with his daughter Pam (Teri Polo), anticipating the moment where Greg will mess up and give him a reason to take his daughter back.

Overall, Greg is a pretty good guy. He cares about his family, he wants to do right, and he wants to impress Jack and his wife Dina (Blythe Danner). Problem is, Jack’s stern and menacing disapproval causes Greg to become nervous and anxious, leading to situations that call into question his loyalty. Let’s think about this for a moment: Greg has been with Pam for almost ten years, they’re already married, they have two beautiful (although somewhat confused) children that they plan to enter into an upper-class preschool, they live in a nice apartment in a nice neighborhood in Chicago, and are planning to move into a wonderful-looking house in the suburbs. What exactly is Jack’s problem? I don’t know about you, but it seems that Greg has done well for himself; what else can he do to impress this guy? This is one of the many problems with the movie—the main character is more or less perfect, and yet we’re still supposed to believe that he has to earn Jack’s trust to be happy?

Of course, Greg’s loyalty is put to the test in the form of two main obstacles: the first is the return of Kevin (Owen Wilson). Kevin has always been Jack’s preference to marry Pam, but we don’t really know why. He randomly takes off on trips that take him around the world, he flaunts his wealth in the face of others, he makes out with beautiful women on yachts, practices magical eastern medicines, and makes it more than clear that he still wants to be with Pam. He even has a tramp-stamp tattoo of her on his lower back. These are not the signs of a worthy partner, but rather the signs of a very rich, very unstable stalker. The other obstacle Greg has to face is that of Andi Garcia, a pharmaceutical rep. No, this is not “Andy Garcia” the actor, as the film so generously tells us, but a female played by Jessica Alba. Alba stretches her acting chops to play (surprise!) a strikingly beautiful woman. Yes, Jessica Alba has always been easy on the eyes, but her acting here is less than impressive, her use of street slang is “straight up ridiculous yo!” and her attempt to seduce Greg is just plain bad. There is a scene, after Greg has gotten in to a fight with Jack, where Andi attempts to take advantage of Greg’s vulnerability, and Alba’s acting during this sequence is pretty much like a cartoon character, lacking any notion of realism.

There are a few scenes that did make me smile, and most of these involve the awkwardness between Jack and Greg. I feel that Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro do have good comedic chemistry with each other; if that weren’t the case we wouldn’t have three of these movies. The best scenes are when the two simply talk with each other, both trying to out-intimidate the other, and the awkward silences that they share. But breaking it down, Little Fockers is basically the exact same film as Meet the Parents. There is nothing new here, no interesting character developments, and no new insight in regard to the dynamics of these people. We still have the outrageous, unbelievable, slapstick comedy that we have seen throughout the rest of the series, Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman return to pretty much pick up a paycheck, and Harvey Keitel surprisingly appears in a cameo that is essentially a high-end extra. I only fear that, if successful, this movie will spawn yet another sequel. Can we say “Meet the Little Fockers?”

Final Grade: C

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