December 24, 2010 in Features

Review: Film series one too many with ‘Little Fockers’

Christopher Kelly Fort Worth Star-Telegram
 

Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller in “Little Fockers.”
(Full-size photo)

You know a comedy franchise has hit rock bottom when, within the first 15 minutes of a movie, you’ve been forced to watch an obese man receiving an enema and a 2-year-old boy projectile vomiting into the face of his dad.

So it goes with “Little Fockers,” the third and (let’s all cross our fingers here) presumably last installment in the series about the put-upon nurse Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and his ex-CIA agent father-in-law Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro).

Greg and his wife Pam (Teri Polo) are now happily, if busily married in Chicago, with their twins’ third birthday fast approaching.

But our hero faces temptation in the form of Andi Garcia (Jessica Alba), a knockout pharmaceutical sales rep who wants Greg to become a spokesperson for a new male sexual enhancement drug called Sustengo.

Jack, meanwhile, is facing mortality: He’s recently suffered a heart attack, which – for reasons that make about as much as sense as everything else in this slapdash effort – only Greg knows.

The assorted plot points converge in one of those “I-can’t-believe-I’m -actually-watching-this” moments, when Jack has a negative reaction to Sustengo, requiring Greg to inject his aroused private parts with a shot of adrenaline.

(As much as De Niro probably earned to endure “Little Fockers,” he should have asked for another $5 million for this scene alone.)

The plot, of course, is really just an excuse to assemble a bunch of familiar faces and allow them to schtick it up. At least on that score, “Little Fockers” obliges.

Barbra Streisand, as Greg’s sex therapist mother, and Dustin Hoffman, as his “menopausal” father, endearingly hover around the edges. Owen Wilson – who’s long been the best part of this series – returns as Pam’s ex-boyfriend Kevin, a Zen-preaching investment banker who’s forever in the throes of a spiritual crisis.

New to the mix – though large chunks of their performances seem to have been left on the cutting room floor – are Laura Dern, playing the headmistress at a tony preschool where Greg and Pam want to enroll the twins, and Harvey Keitel, as Greg’s do-nothing contractor.

There’s absolutely nothing at stake here: We know Greg would never cheat on Pam, and we know Jack’s suspicions will eventually be allayed and father-in-law and son-in-law will once again come to an uneasy truce.

By the time they have a bloody fistfight in a children’s playground ball pit, “Little Fockers” is no longer running on fumes – it’s empty.

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