Okay, I’m Mr. Jerk-Ass Film Critic Who Doesn’t Know Comedy. Some people like comedies where you can sit back and just have fun. Fine with me. For any ardent Meet the Parents fans reading this or anyone who just likes plain and simple comedies, my opinion won’t sway you, so I’ll just warn you that the audience at my screening, who would fall into both groups, didn’t laugh much either, and when there was some laughter, it sounded forced.
For good or bad, it’s not like a review is going to be useful for Little Fockers because a review isn’t going to change the mind of someone wanting to see it, and it’s just going to justify the rest who don’t—the only thing a review for this kind of film would be good for is if the film were actually funny.
It’s not. Case in point, when Stiller injects DeNiro’s Viagra-ized penis with adrenaline to de-Viagra-ize it, Stiller’s little kid walks into the bathroom at exactly the wrong moment. Another time a similarly awkward family moment leads to the child loudly exclaiming, “Shit!” Both shots are set up and executed in such a way that it’s just enough to tease the audience into thinking it might not be the predictable joke and then WHAM, it knifes us by revealing that exactly what we thought was going to happen happened.
Now I like little kids swearing and sticking sharp things into Italian men’s genitals, but that’s the point: I like it. Meet the Fockers doesn’t. The essence of third-grade potty humor isn’t in the dirty word itself; it’s in the excitement and reverence of the third-grader at having learned it.
The plot is essentially a rehash of the original Meet the Parents (and probably Meet the Fockers as well, but I never saw it), save that the dynamic of Gaylord Focker and Pam has changed marginally: They now have children, who, as I mentioned, exist to say words that little children shouldn’t say and take up time in an aimless subplot involving their admission to a high-price kindergarten.
And then there’s the sudden appearance of Jessica Alba as a pharmaceutical rep inexplicably hot for Gaylord and the sudden reappearance of Owen Wilson as Pam’s ex-lover. Things heat up when Alba suddenly takes a picture of her and Gaylord looking somewhat intimate and reach a boiling point later when she suddenly tries to seduce him…of course, Gaylord tries to resist, but that’s not how Jack sees it, because he’s long suspected this affair after spying that picture on MySpace, and…
And, the only real highlight of that is Jessica Alba in her underwear.
Okay, plot doesn’t always have to be perfect or air-tight—and especially in a comedy—but if a film is going to ask us to have a tender moment at the end with all the Fockers, that is, if it’s going to build toward something and foist a lame-ass moral of familyness-together-crap, it shouldn’t get let off the hook for having every single snippet of plot development fall from the sky—from the spontaneous appearance of the romantic antagonists to the abrupt inclusion of deus ex Hoffman at the end. If you’re going for that kind of smarmy payoff, you have to earn it, and please, we’d like something funny for our time.
Usually with a film of this kind, the reviewer delivers up some barbed quips and snide remarks and in general revel in his own cleverness. They’d be right to, because Little Fockers is a bad, bad film, but I just hope that among the snark-fray, DeNiro and Stiller come out with only a few lost limbs.
It’s films like the Meet the Parents franchise (okay, well it is the Meet the Parents franchise) that cause high-nosed snub-brows or snub-nosed high-brows or whomever else to declare DeNiro and Stiller’s careers dead, comatose, or something resembling either, and that’s nonsense. The reason a film like Little Fockers is horrible is the writing, and not only should the cast not be ashamed for associating themselves with such lame jokes, they should be lauded for having the gumption to actually try pulling this material off. (Okay, well maybe they should be ashamed a little.)
But my point is that DeNiro, Stiller, Hoffman, Streisand, Owen Wilson (who I think actually gets a legitimate laugh), and the rest are and will always remain talented people, and if you don’t believe that, just imagine how much more unbearable a film like this would be if they weren’t in it.