published Friday, December 24th, 2010

'Fockers' is house guest that won't leave

By David Germain

The Associated Press

Meet "Little Fockers," the latest in Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller's comedy franchise. Grit your teeth through the fairly short though agonizing duration of its stay.

Then wave goodbye in relief as its huge cast of characters departs like the annoying in-laws they are.

"Meet the Parents" from 2000 was a tolerable trifle and 2004's "Meet the Fockers" was a bloated bore. But "Little Fockers" is tasteless trash, filled with abysmally unfunny gags involving vomit, enemas, erectile dysfunction and the like as De Niro's Byrnes clan and Stiller's Focker family stumble through another mindless reunion.

The only positive thing De Niro, Stiller and such co-stars as Barbra Streisand, Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Alba and Owen Wilson honestly could say about "Little Fockers" is that they were paid well.

Jay Roach, who directed the first two movies, only produces this time, with Paul Weitz filling in as director on "Little Fockers."

Weitz's past work ranges from sweet and sharp ("About a Boy") to gross but edgy ("American Pie"). He's delivered an awful mess here, working from a witless screenplay credited to John Hamburg, co-writer of the first two movies and a producer on this one, and Larry Stuckey, an associate producer on "Meet the Fockers."

A string of dumb episodes, "Little Fockers" strains to find new reasons for De Niro's father-in-law from hell Jack Byrnes to revive his suspicions about Stiller's Greg Focker, the male nurse his darling daughter Pam (Teri Polo) has chosen for a mate.

It all goes down as Jack and his wife (Blythe Danner) visit Greg and Pam for the birthday bash of the couple's twins. Ex-CIA agent Jack resumes his surveillance of Greg, who has an innocent flirtation with a gorgeous pharmaceutical rep (Alba) peddling Sustengo, a new drug to treat impotence.

Really. This is what the filmmakers expect you to pay to see.

Wilson is back as Pam's old flame, doing the same passive-aggressive pining and whining he did in the first two movies. Streisand and Hoffman return as Greg's touchy-feely parents, whose sexual frankness again leaves the upright Jack unsettled.

Laura Dern joins the cast in a pointless role as head of a school that Greg and Pam are considering for their kids. A confrontation between De Niro and Harvey Keitel as Greg's housing contractor could have been a real hoot given the long history between the two actors, pals since their early days in Martin Scorsese films. But it's just stiff, awkward and humorless, like the rest of the movie.

'Little Fockers'

* Rating: PG-13 for mature sexual humor throughout, language and some drug content.

* Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes.

The jokes are beyond lame, including a terrible play on words involving "The Godfather" that apparently had the filmmakers in stitches, since the movie repeats it so often. There's even a dreadful, prolonged "Jaws" gag (the same studio made both movies, so at least the "Fockers" gang could poach the "Jaws" theme music on the cheap).

It's remarkable so many stars could be lured into this rubbish, no matter how big the paychecks. But then, Hoffman initially said no to reprising his role, coming on board only after most of "Little Fockers" had been shot.

His scenes were added later, pairing him mostly with Streisand and Stiller, then clumsily interspersed amid the main action.

Hopefully, there will be no call for any of the actors to repeat their roles after this. Let's pray these in-laws never come to visit again.

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