Friday, December 17, 2010

Little Fockers – Movie Review

Last night in the final session of the Fall Semester of my movie class, we saw “Little Fockers”, starring Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro as well as appearances by a bunch of other folks. 

When Jack Byrnes decides he must hand over the responsibility of head of the family to his son-in-law Greg Focker, Greg then desperately tries to prove to Jack that he’s worthy – but after Jack suspects Greg of being a philanderer, can Greg convince Jack that he’s faithful?
Struggling to earn a decent living as Head Nurse at his hospital, Greg Focker (Stiller) is forced to take a job on the side working for a pharmaceutical company to help them sell their new Erectile Dysfunction drug.  This causes him to spend less time with his family, resulting in father-in-law Jack Byrnes (De Niro) becoming suspicious about this new behavior.  Jack is particularly upset by this because after a recent mild heart attack that caused him to come to terms with his own mortality, Jack informed Greg that he wants Greg to take over as head of the family upon his demise. 

Jack and his wife Dina (Blythe Danner) are in town visiting Greg and their daughter Pam (Teri Polo) because Greg & Pam’s twins are about to celebrate a birthday.  While there, Jack figures that this is an opportune time to check up on his son-in-law and determines something is up when he discovers samples of the Erectile Dysfunction medication in the closet and sees Greg leaving the family at night.  Jack confronts Greg about this and informs him that if Greg is to take over responsibility of running the family once Jack is gone, then Greg must earn his trust and show that he is truly a dedicated family man. 

One night, Jack tails Greg and finds him at Greg & Pam’s new house, which is currently being renovated prior to their move-in; Greg is alone with Andi (Jessica Alba), the sexy saleswoman from the drug company with whom Greg works closely.  Andi then comes on to Greg – Jack spots this and mistakes it for Greg cheating.  During the birthday party of Greg & Pam’s twins – an elaborate affair held at the palatial estate of Pam’s old boyfriend Kevin (Owen Wilson) – Jack confronts Greg about his supposed infidelity.  Can Greg convince Jack that he’s loyal to his wife and thus earn Jack’s trust?

It wouldn’t take too much effort on my part to trash this movie, but I refuse to do so.  First of all, I realize that there are quite a few people that have enjoyed these Stiller vs. De Niro flicks over the years, which accounts for their popularity and success at the box office (not to mention the resulting sequels).  Besides, taking the opportunity to bitch-slap the film would only make me look like some kind of a pompous pseudo-intellectual who’s above this type of major Hollywood production (which my ego wants me to believe that I’m really not).  Since there are already enough professional movie critics who are paid for that sort of thing already, why should I bother doing myself the disservice?  Suffice it to say that if you liked the first two movies in this series, then you will probably appreciate this one as well.  

For those of you who saw “Meet The Fockers”, I should warn you that Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand (who played Stiller’s parents in that film) are barely in this movie – their appearance results in basically what you might think of as cameos, having precious little to do in terms of driving any aspect of the plot forward.  Essentially, wasted performances by a pair of big name stars.  Kind of makes you wonder why their characters were even in the movie in the first place.  The jokes – which I found few and far between for something that’s supposed to be a comedy – weren’t particularly funny to me and they mostly just left me shaking my head.  The one bright spot for me was the scene where Alba runs around in her undies for a bit.

After the screening, our instructor interviewed the movie’s primary screenwriter, John Hamburg, who was also among the producers of “Little Fockers”.  Our instructor characterized this series of movies as a “franchise”, not unlike something such as “Star Wars”, partly because of the fact that the filmmakers are now in the role of making a sequel to a sequel.  Hamburg said that this gave him great trepidation because as you explore new twists on the theme, you find that you are gradually running out of story ideas and the whole concept loses steam after a while; he joked that maybe the next film would instead be a “prequel”, titled something like “Fore-Fockers”.