Who’s In It: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Teri Polo, Owen Wilson, Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Alba, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, Laura Dern, Harvey Keitel, Thomas McCarthy
The Basics: A few years have passed since the last sequel in this increasingly abysmal franchise, bringing new developments into the lives of Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and his wife, Pam (Teri Polo) – and yet, the more things change, the more these Fockers stay the same. Greg is now the proud father of twins, has been promoted at work, and is renovating a new house to be ready in time for the kids’ weekend birthday bash -- and as his retired-CIA father-in-law Jack (Robert De Niro) starts realizing he’s getting old and must pass on the torch as head of the family, the two frequent adversaries find themselves in something of a bromance. But when Jack mistakes Greg’s work relationship with a flirty drug rep (Jessica Alba) for adultery, Jack reverts back to overstepping his bounds and sabotaging his daughter’s marriage.
What’s The Deal: For a brief time Little Fockers suggests that Greg, Jack, and the filmmakers behind this franchise have learned from their past mistakes. Greg has a backbone and some semblance of self-worth; Jack starts losing his step, suffers a few heart palpitations, and suddenly starts treating his poor son-in-law like an actual human being. And then Ben Stiller sticks a needle into Academy Award winner Robert De Niro’s drug-induced boner while a young child takes in the scene, traumatized for life. Consider that kid a proxy for the viewer, who is also seeing that which cannot be unseen. No cineaste should have to watch the mighty fall so low. And that includes De Niro, Blythe Danner, Harvey Keitel (as a lazy, no-sleeve-wearing contractor), and Oscar winners Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand, the latter of whom breeze in and out of the film with the carefree air of actors who don’t have to spend more than a day on set.
Why Little Fockers Is Actually A Terrible Film To Watch During The Holidays: It raises all of the familiar familial anxieties that arise this time of year, and the jokes are mean-spirited and insipid to boot. Worse, nobody learns any lessons -- least of all De Niro’s relentless, remorseless antagonist. Not once does the eternally impotent Stiller stand up for himself or for his own marriage despite having matured considerably from the earlier films, and neither do any of the women in the extended Focker family express anything other than mild ignorance of the infantile war their men are fighting. By the time the family festivities culminate in a fistfight in the middle of a children’s birthday party, there’s really no one left to root for.
A Bright Spot Late In The Game: Director Paul Weitz makes the inane proceedings look like a real movie, but he fails to show any inkling of personality for most of the film. That is, until Stiller and De Niro wrestle their way into a birthday party ball pit full of children and Weitz turns the scene into a note-for-note parody of Jaws. As far as unexpectedly random moments go, it’s second only to the part where Deepak Chopra shows up to fill Owen Wilson’s drink on a yacht party with monks.