Little Fockers, by Albert W. Vogt III

As Little Fockers (2010) concluded, the third in a series of movies that piqued with the first, Meet the Parents (2000), a friend of mine who I was watching it with asked: “Is this the last one?”  “I hope so,” I responded.  Now that the viewing has concluded, I can take to the internet and say with some relief that, yes, this is the final installment in this series.  To be fair, they are not bad movies.  They are not great either.  They rely on tired comedic modes, mostly involving obvious innuendo and predictable physical jokes.  The name of the title family says everything you need to know about this idea.  Anyway, I have done my due diligence in pushing through the entire trilogy, so here you go.

You might think that with a title like Little Fockers, the focus would be on the children of series staples Greg (Ben Stiller) and Pam Focker (Teri Polo).  While their two twin children, Henry (Colin Baiocchi) and Samantha (Daisy Tahan), do play a prominent role, the focus is yet again on the forever contentious relationship between Greg and his father-in-law Jack Byrnes (Robert de Niro).  Every movie has Greg wanting to impress Jack because he loves Pam, only to inadvertently mess it up before the inevitable reconciliation and greater appreciation for one another.  Rinse, dry, and repeat.  This time, after suffering a minor heart attack, Jack contacts Greg to ask an important favor.  Because at this point Greg is in the infamous Byrnes’ circle of trust, Jack’s sudden reminder of his mortality has him turning to his son-in-law.  Specifically, Jack wants Greg to be the “Godfocker,” meaning that if anything were to happen to Jack, Greg would head the family.  Greg is once more wrapped around Jack’s finger, this time trying to do his best to emulate his father-in-law in properly raising his kids.  Greg is keen to show that he is capable of making confident decisions when Jack and Dina (Blythe Danner), Greg’s mother-in-law, visit their Chicago home on the eve of the twins’ fifth birthday.  While Greg does make a good impression initially, it begins to fall apart at dinner that evening.  Greg brings to the table a delicious looking turkey, Jack’s favorite, but cuts himself when Jack is startled by Henry’s pet lizard.  The blood splatter ruins the meal, and the arrival of Pam’s ex-boyfriend, the super wealthy and still dedicated to the Byrnes family Kevin Rawley (Owen Wilson), only complicates the situation.  Greg hopes to salvage the situation by showing Jack the school he hopes to get the twins into, the super elite and absurdly named Early Human School.  Kevin is friends with the school’s dean Prudence (Laura Dern), but Greg wants to show that he can gain admission for them on his own merits.  A potential stumbling block to this is his relative lack of funds, which is an embarrassment to Greg in light of Jack’s desire that one’s financial house be in order.  To that end, he takes a lucrative offer from the bubbly and way too flirty Andi Garcia (Jessica Alba), a pharmaceutical company representative.  She had approached Greg earlier about being a spokesman for her line of erectile disfunction pills, which he initially declined.  Yet, with the prospects of an expensive school for the twins and the new house they hope to move into, he changes his mind and gives a speech in favor of the drug at a conference in town.  The always suspicious one-time Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer Jack catches wind of this and, as usual, assumes the worst.  He is more convinced that Greg is not being faithful to his daughter when Jack finds a picture online of Andi kissing Jack on the cheek.  Things come to a head when, while at the hospital following Henry breaking his arm, Jack pulls Pam aside and forcefully suggests that she make a “course correction.”  In layman’s terms, Jack wants Pam to dump Greg in favor of Kevin, who has also had Pam’s face tattooed on his back.  An argument ensues when Jack openly tries to get Pam to make this decision with Greg and Kevin on hand.  Greg fires back, accusing Jack of meddling once again in his family’s affairs, and divulging the secret about Jack’s heart problems.  Greg then leaves the hospital to spend the night at his new house, and he is driven there by Andi.  He follows this up with another ridiculous decision of letting Andi inside with some take-out food and a couple bottles of wine.  She proceeds to take off her clothes and tries to have sex with him.  He is doing his best to fight her off, but his efforts are mistaken for the real thing by Jack, who spies their activities through the window though he had come to apologize.  The next morning brings Greg’s dad Bernie Focker (Dustin Hoffman) to Chicago for the twin’s birthday, which is also that day.  He finds his passed-out son in a hole where a pool is to go, the result of being pushed in and landed upon by a drunk and addled Andi landing on him.  Nonetheless, he is able to make it to the party being hosted by Kevin.  Pam and his children are delighted to see him, but Jack is less than thrilled.  In fact, a fist fight breaks out between them, which ends when Jack gets a hold of Greg and does an impromptu lie detection test about Greg’s claims that nothing happening with Andi.  Jack is satisfied that Greg is innocent, but he suffers another heart attack in the process.  Still, things are patched up and we end with the Fockers and Byrnes together at Christmas and, to Greg’s horror, everyone saying that they are moving to Chicago.

If you have made it this far in this review of Little Fockers, I am sure you will have noted that there is nothing original about this film, either in general or within the series.  It is a recycled plot.  Yet, apparently Robert de Niro enjoyed doing it so much that he helped produce it.  He got a whole bunch of famous performers to be in it, too, but then again, who refuses de Niro?  At the same time, I think Owen Wilson’s involvement is more for Ben Stiller’s sake.  After all, Kevin is barely in the first two, but plays a significant part in the third.  His character in this one somewhat piques the interest of this Catholic reviewer.  For the most part, he behaves like a horny teenager, and one that has read too many fortune cookies.  While it may be cheap philosophy, there is some that I can appreciate.  Specifically, he talks about emulating Jesus in the same breath as relating to the suffering of Buddha.  My reaction to hearing something like this is two-fold. The first part is worry.  The line is indicative of a milk-toast, limp wristed spirituality that says that all the faiths are true.  If all of them are true, then none of them are true, in which case what are we all doing here?  In this meaningless spiritual stew that some seem to be into these days, it is typically Christianity that gets picked on.  At the same time, it is good that they can at least acknowledge the great things Jesus did as outlined in the Bible.  In the movie they talk about the Sermon on the Mount.  It is in these lines that you can find some of the greatest expressions of Christianity in the Beatitudes.  Even if you do not believe in God (which would be unfortunate), then it is good to say how incredible are these words.  In this light, it brings me to my second reaction, which is a small amount of thankfulness to be included in the same vein as the Buddha facing suffering.  Ecumenism with other faith traditions is an important focus of the Catholic Church, and has been so for a number of centuries.  In this way, we can see how God can work outside of the framework of the Church, even if it is not recommended.

Little Fockers is kind of sweet, predictable, but sweet.  I watched these in consecutive nights, which probably did not help with the comedy.  If you must watch them, there are worse things to see.  There is also better.  Some of the sexual innuendo is less than ideal, and I do not think it is good to have little kids saying bad words.  But, again, it could be worse.

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