Little Fockers (PG-13)
Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Hollywood Interquest, Tinseltown
It astonishes me that people — many people — proudly put their names on this movie, even the ones who aren't on screen and could have escaped unknown. It's mystifying enough trying to fathom just what the hell an actor with the stature of Robert De Niro is doing in a movie that finds the height of its humor in a child's projectile vomiting and dick jokes. But I suppose he's stuck with it up to this point — there now exists a "Focker trilogy" — and he'd better make the best of it.
The act of creative violence that is Little Fockers begins with the title — the film has almost nothing to do with the children who bear that unfortunate name — and doesn't end till ... well, it still hasn't ended for me, as I continue to contemplate, however unwillingly, a movie that is both baffling and pointless.
Director Paul Weitz and screenwriters John Hamburg and Larry Stuckey have neither the courage of their juvenile grossout convictions nor the ingenuity to figure out what's really funny. Because for all the grossout that is here — for instance, Ben Stiller's nurse Greg Focker bonding with drug rep Jessica Alba over the anal probing of a hapless hospital patient — the story keeps running right up to moments that seem hellbent on, say, indulging homophobia or fears of male sexual inadequacy, and then stopping short. They neglect to offer a punch line, and try to distract us by moving in an entirely random different direction.
Little Fockers is, in fact, the cinematic equivalent of a Viagra-induced four-hour boner: It looks ready for action, but it never quite finishes.
Once again, Greg Focker, now a powerful hospital administrator, butts heads with his psychotic father-in-law, Jack Byrnes (De Niro), over whether Greg is man enough to be an effective husband and father. This involves Jack interrogating Greg on Greg's sex life with his daughter, Pam (Teri Polo), which is deeply disturbing on many levels. It also involves letting the plot, such as it is, wander wherever it wants, as long as there's the potential for Greg to be embarrassed and unmanned in some way.
Enter Owen Wilson's Kevin Rawley, the "perfect" suitor who Pam let get away, and whom Jack still wishes his precious offspring had allied herself with. It's supposed to be a hilarious contrast, the one between Kevin's obscene wealth and New Age touchy-feely-ness and Greg's ... well, Greg apparently makes a pretty good living and is a sweet, gentle guy, too. Jack's objection to Greg never really has made sense.
Oh, but I'm thinking far too much about this stupid movie, and far more than anyone involved in making it did. If they'd thought about it, they'd have realized that throwing in random shit is a poor way to tell a story. Twisting things so De Niro can have an on-screen argument with Harvey Keitel, who comes and goes with little apparent rationale as a contractor working on Greg's new house, is simply lazy. And torturing a joke just to work De Niro into delivering the phrase "godfocker" is downright inexcusable.
I'd call this a movie for those with a short attention span, but that's giving it too much credit. It expects its audience to have no attention span at all, so they won't notice when it's nothing more than two damn hours of arbitrary assholery and unconnected melodrama masquerading as a movie.