Quite the nicest surprise about Paul Weitz’s pretty abysmal Little Fockers was that it doesn’t quite plumb the depths of sheer abysmalosity that its first reviews indicated. That’s not the same as saying it’s any good. Because it’s not. It’s reasonably appalling—especially the first 30 minutes. The first 30 minutes are, in fact, aggressive in their awfulness. After that, the movie mostly settles in for passive mediocrity, which may actually be worse. At least, the opening sections were punctuated with the sort of peculiar amazement that accompanies seeing the spectacularly ill-advised hit the screen with alarming regularity. After that, the movie is just limp and rather tedious.
I didn’t mind Meet the Fockers (2005)—in fact, I gave it three-and-a-half stars, which is more than my Xpress predecessor gave Meet the Parents (2000). (Am I really to believe she had seen Peter Jackson’s Meet the Feebles (1990), though?) And it could be said that everything from Meet the Fockers is in this latest outburst of Fockering around. Problem is it all feels oh-so-recycled—except when it feels just plain desperate. Additionally—to me at least—Little Fockers is simply not funny. I must admit the scene where Gaylord “Greg” Focker (Ben Stiller) gives Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) an injection of adrenalin in his willy for one of those pharmaceutically induced “erections lasting more than four hours” afforded the audience I saw the movie with more amusement than it did me. The fault may lie with me—or in having seen the gag about 50 times in the trailer.
Despite its title, the film is only sort of about the younger Fockers—Samantha (Daisy Tahan, Synecdoche, New York) and Henry (Colin Baiocchi, Couples Retreat). It’s mostly about Jack, who after suffering a mild heart attack, names his usually disdained male nurse son-in-law Greg the new family patriarch—or “Godfocker,” as the film endlessly insists. (This gag is apparently meant to remind the viewer that De Niro used to be in somewhat classier fare, which seems somehow more depressing than mirthful.) The role of patriarch is inexplicably taken very seriously by Greg, who, in an effort to make his family financially secure, accepts an offer from oversexed drug rep Andi Garcia (Jessica Alba) to shill for a new erectile dysfunction medication called Sustengo. This will lead to much misunderstanding about Greg’s fidelity to Jack’s daughter Pam (the utterly negligible Teri Polo).
That’s about it. Everything else is either pointless digression (Laura Dern as the head of some trendy posh private school) or repeated shtick from the first two films. Most of the peculiar embellishments come early on. These include arterial spray, projectile vomit, De Niro giving himself heart defibrillation and the utterly weird business of Jessica Alba getting all hot and bothered by helping to give a patient an enema. Dustin Hoffman (who mostly manages to stay offscreen) and Barbra Streisand (who manages to avoid actual interaction with the rest of the cast for a large portion of the movie) probably come off best, even though all they’re doing is a retread of their performances in Meet the Fockers. Somehow, however, they seem less embarrassing. In a movie like this, that’s some kind of achievement. Rated PG-13 for mature sexual humor throughout, language and some drug content.