sun 05/04/2020

Little Fockers | reviews, news & interviews

Little Fockers

Little Fockers

A great cast left with little to do in a franchise that's run out of steam

Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller: Not a lot of laughs in 'Little Fockers'

The third instalment of the Meet the Parents franchise, which began in 2000 and was followed by Meet the Fockers in 2004, moves the story on a few years. In Little Fockers Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo) are now married and have twins, Sam and Henry.

The third instalment of the Meet the Parents franchise, which began in 2000 and was followed by Meet the Fockers in 2004, moves the story on a few years. In Little Fockers Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo) are now married and have twins, Sam and Henry.

As Sam and Henry’s fifth birthday approaches we see Pam’s dad, paranoid ex-CIA man Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro), newly obsessed with genealogy, confronting his mortality. In one of the movie’s early and funnier scenes, he suffers a heart attack and, alone in the house, defibrillates himself with the leads from his lie-detector machine. Byrnes’s favoured son-in-law, Doctor Bob, has gone Awol after cheating on Byrnes's daughter number two, and so he now has to pass the mantle of head of the family to nurse Greg, real name Gaylord - very much a poor second choice in Jack’s mind.

But things are not that simple, of course, as Jack then suspects Greg of having an affair with gorgeous pharmaceutical rep Andi Garcia (Jessica Alba) and encourages Pam to hook up again with ex-boyfriend Kevin (Owen Wilson, doing a nice turn). What follows is a series of misunderstandings, some obvious contrivances and several scenes that allow a group of fine actors to do their shtick (Laura Dern as a stern headmistress, Harvey Keitel as a builder, Barbra Streisand as Greg’s sex-therapist mum) with great aplomb. None of these characters pushes the narrative along, however, and their scenes feel entirely separate from the rest of the movie.

That may be because, as Hollywood rumour has it, Little Fockers went through several rewrites and that another character, Greg’s dad (Dustin Hoffman), was hired for this sequel only at the reshoot stage. Not even he, nor director Paul Weitz, can’t lift it above mediocre and that’s a shame, as the original Fockers movie was laugh-out-loud funny and Jack’s character a true original. By Mark 3, De Niro has run out of tics and grimaces to make Jack a comic grotesque and now he simply appears to be in need of psychiatric treatment.

The laughs come infrequently, and you know a comedy is in trouble when the only guffaw is at a projectile-vomiting gag, even if there are intelligent nods to Jaws and The Godfather along the way and the occasional smart line to appreciate. Everyone tries very hard to make it work and it passes the time, but that’s hardly a recommendation.

Hollywood rumour has it that Little Fockers went through several rewrites

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters