22 December 2010


In doing my reading around the film before I wrote this review of Little Fockers, I realised it's been six years since Meet the Fockers was released. I was much younger, and that film was quite funny, then. Now, it doesn't really hold up, and making me feel old just compounds the crimes of this worse sequel, in my view.

The Fockers of the title aren't that big a part of the plot, but they're Henry and Samantha Focker, the young twin children of Greg and Pam. With big plans for their upcoming fifth birthday celebration, Greg's father-in-law Jack Byrnes suffers a minor heart attack. His pride and legacy on the line, he begins training Greg to take over as the patriarch of the family in case Jack's heart condition should worsen. Does that sound funny? Hell, does it even sound like a narrative?

Let's name and shame the greatest offender in Little Fockers right off the bat- it's Dustin Hoffman. One of the first bits of news that came out about this long gestating sequel was that Hoffman wouldn't be returning as Greg's father Bernie Focker because the script they were going ahead with wasn't good enough. I like Dustin Hoffman, and can admire that decision. That he eventually consented to reshoots, inserting him so clumsily into the film that he might as well have been composited into scenes with a green screen shoot, means only one thing- they offered him the right amount of money.

For everyone else in the cast, I can believe that it wasn't the money. The script is terrible, but I could see this as a rainy afternoon movie. Not as in the kind of film audiences like to watch when the weather is bad and there's nothing on telly, but a film that these actors would resort to if they were stuck without anything else to do and wanted to revisit a formula that worked in the past. Look at this cast! Ben Stiller, Robert DeNiro, Owen Wilson, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner and Teri Polo all return, and Jessica Alba and Laura Dern sort of stand around smiling for the camera, and you have to wonder why this film exists.

Robert DeNiro really needs talking to. This is his second film on the trot that co-stars Jessica Alba, and it's getting embarrassing. Just because The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle is still his rock bottom, it doesn't mean that he shouldn't be trying harder than this. Jack Byrnes, like all of the other characters in the Fockers canon, is a character who does not grow, or develop. He is crabby, he mistrusts Greg, he gets into various misunderstandings, realises the error of his ways and appears to come out of things wiser. Except he just resets to zero at the beginning of the next sequel.

Thankfully, it's difficult to imagine Little Fockers doing well enough for anyone to demand another outing for the Fockers and their extended family. It's less a film and more like a TV sketch show spin-off, based on the first two films. It takes those characters and completely divorces cause from effect in its narrative construction, and gives us a series of comedy skits rather than a film. They must have some amazing jokes to justify the existence of this thing, right? Wrong.

This film is not funny. What it is, however, is repetitive. It repeats itself as much as the previous two instalments. Have you seen the trailer for this thing? Jack calls Greg to tell him that he needs Greg to take over as the Byrnes family patriarch, and become... and there's a pause, just to allow you to prepare yourself for the orgasmic hilarity of this joke. And after the pause, he says... the Godfocker. Well if your sides split hearing that exchange in the trailer, you'd better bring spare pants when you see the whole film, because the very next thing Greg says is "The Godfocker?" And then Jack reiterates, for the cheap seats and says... "The Godfocker."

It wasn't funny once. It was not funny the third time. And Little Fockers is the third time out for a franchise that outstays its welcome with the Godfocker exchange, with over 70 minutes left of almost mirthless flim-flam to enjoy. It made me smirk two or three times, but so disconnected is its script that every time we go down a thread that might potentially be very funny, we cut away to find out what Owen Wilson's doing to earn that sweet sequel salary. Dustin Hoffman almost made me laugh once, but I was still too upset with him to enjoy it. It's a weak end to the series, to say the least, because I don't know that it is the end, but if I at least say it is, it might come true.

Little Fockers is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Little Fockers, why not share your comments below? If you do ask for a fourth Focker film, and that comes to pass, I'm coming to get you.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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