With Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Owen Wilson, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner. Directed by Paul Weitz. Rated PG-13 for mature sexual humor throughout, language and some drug content. 98 minutes.
What terrible thing have moviegoers done to deserve yet a third outing in this series of alleged comedies? There may have been a germ of an idea in “Meet The Parents” (itself a remake), but by now it’s blossomed into a raging disease. Avoid this toxic waste dump of a movie, and do something less painful – like getting kicked by a mule. Considering how bad the movie is, it is a small wonder that any of the principal actors involved haven’t started bailing out yet, because no one can possibly be proud of being associated with a movie like LITTLE FOCKERS.
From its smirking title – see, Ben Stiller’s character is Greg Focker – to the return of Owen Wilson at his oiliest, this is the “Saw” of holiday comedies. Now with two children, Greg works as a nurse (snicker) but he’s been promoted to an administrative role. A sexy drug rep (Jessica Alba) wants to pay him the money he’ll need for private school tuition for his kids to represent a new erectile dysfunction drug. One can imagine the high-fives among the filmmakers when they realized this gave them a source for humor beside projectile vomiting and Greg’s father-in-law Jack (Robert De Niro) wishing his daughter Pam (Teri Polo) had done better.
The plot, such as it is, focuses on the struggle between Greg and Jack as to who is the head of the family. It leads to the scene where the two of them check out a private school for the kids and the headmistress (Laura Dern) assumes they are a couple. Wow, haven’t seen any homosexual panic jokes for a while. Where ever do they get their ideas?
In fact, the basic idea remains the idea that Greg has to be humiliated at every turn. A low point is reached when their friend Kevin (Wilson) arrives and it is revealed he has a tattoo of Pam’s face on his back. He makes it very clear that he’s ready to move in should Greg stumble. In the original film there was at least the idea that a fiancé meeting prospective in-laws can be a time of comic tension, even if the film exploited it with the lamest of jokes. Now the series is off the deep end with Kevin even making a play for Greg’s mother (Barbara Streisand) and his father (Dustin Hoffman) off in Spain to study flamenco dancing.
About the only thing of interest – and very small interest at that – is that it reunites De Niro with his “Mean Streets” and “Taxi Driver” co-star Harvey Keitel who has a couple of scenes as a building contractor working for Greg. (They also appeared together in the little-seen 2004 film “The Bridge Of San Luis Rey.”) It’s a nice bit of trivia but not even Martin Scorsese could have made something worthwhile out of this material. Consider “Little Fockers” a stocking full of coal from the filmmakers to you.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.