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Little Fockers

December 22, 2010

Little Fockers

Let’s be honest: if you’re interested in seeing Little Fockers, you’ve probably seen it twice before. In 2000 it was called Meet the Parents, and in 2004 it was called Meet the Fockers. But in Hollywood a proven cash cow beats originality every time.

So let’s take the roll: Greg Focker, née Gaylord (Ben Stiller), is a nurse who’s moved up to management at his Chicago hospital. As usual, he’s married to Pam Focker, née Byrnes (Teri Polo), and now they have twins together: Samantha (Daisy Tahan) and Henry (Colin Baiocchi).

Pam’s father Jack (Robert De Niro) is a retired CIA agent with more than his share of control issues. Her mother Dina (Blythe Danner) balanced Jack out to some extent in the first two movies, but she’s basically an afterthought here for little more than continuity. And of course it couldn’t be a farce without her flighty and filthy rich former fiancé Kevin (Owen Wilson).

On Greg’s side we welcome back his mother Roz (Barbra Streisand) — a television sex therapist with a penchant for discussing Greg’s personal life — and his father Bernie (Dustin Hoffman) — who has run off to study the flamenco in Seville. I really couldn’t figure out a good reason for either of them to be back.

So now it’s a few weeks out from Sam and Henry’s fifth birthday party. The plan is to hold it in the backyard of their new suburban house. Unfortunately, it’s being remodeled by a possibly-crooked contractor (Harvey Keitel), and might not be done in time. There’s also pressure to get the kids into a private elementary school, which means tours and interviews with the touchy-feely bobo headmistress (Laura Dern). Overall, pretty regular upper-middle-class family stresses.

The grenade comes when Pam’s sister’s husband, Dr. Bob, leaves her, spurring Jack to push Greg into the role of the extended family’s patriarch — the “Godfocker”, as he puts it. This entails new expectations of authority and financial stability, the latter of which could be made easier for Greg if he takes up a perky young pharmacetical rep (Jessica Alba) up on her offer to push Sustengo, a new “heart-safe” erectile dysfunction drug.

But seriously, we’re talking about a family contemplating two private school tuitions, that has bought and is renovating a big suburban house while living in a none-too-shabby townhouse, all evidently on a hospital administrator’s salary since Pam shows no sign of employment. Maybe they don’t jetski on the Black Sea with Deepak Chopra and hire MiG jets for a marriage proposal like Kevin does, but the vast majority of Americans would probably love to have their financial worries.

Still, the story is basically just there to string us along from schtick to schtick. And the franchise has grown so bloated by the third movie that there’s a lot of schtick to get through. Half the characters are just around because they were in an earlier movie, and their bits are basically rehashings of the same ones we’ve already seen. What’s left is as predictable as Chekhov’s gun.

Worth it: not really.
Bechdel test: fail.

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