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Home / Articles / Entertainment / Screen /  Focker off
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Thursday, December 30,2010

Focker off

By Michael Phillips

The strangely marginalized little Fockers in Little Fockers are played by Daisy Tahan, of Nurse Jackie, and Colin Baiocchi, who appeared in Couples Retreat and who clearly can’t get a break when it comes to big-screen ensemble work with anything like a shelf life. I’m not worried about the kid’s income; I’m concerned that he’s growing up on film sets more dedicated to star maintenance than decent situation comedy.

 

These little Fockers, despite the title (Little Fockers), remain sidelined in what passes for the comic complications of this third film in an extremely profitable series begun with a pretty good picture, Meet the Parents. The sole memorable scene involving a little Focker in Little Fockers, though memorable doesn’t mean amusing, involves Ben Stiller’s male-nurse character Greg Focker administering a needle full of adrenaline to his dyspeptic and unhappily aroused father-in-law Jack Byrnes, played by Robert De Niro, who has taken an overdose of Viagra-like pills, and in goes the needle, and there’s the pre-teen boy at the bathroom door, suddenly, not quite sure of what’s going on between his father and grandfather, and everybody screams in a comical way (that’s the intent, at least) and the whole thing feels slightly ... off. PG-13 yucky, but yucky all the same.

The old gang’s back, dutifully, including Teri Polo (marginalized no less than her little Fockers) as Greg Focker’s generic wife, Pam; Blythe Danner as Jack’s wife, Dina, all patience and understanding; Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand as Bernie and Roz Focker, the former a late-blooming flamenco enthusiast, the latter a host of a sex-therapy TV show, embarrassing her son on-air and in-person; and Owen Wilson, as the super-rich ex-lover of Pam, whose suburban Chicago mansion provides the locale for the climactic birthday party, which devolves into a slapstick melee between Focker and his father-in-law.

De Niro suffers most of the head-banging indignities in Little Fockers. The more he throws himself into the reaction shots and the mugging, the more you wonder if he’s really having a good time with this desperate material. Jessica Alba plays a minxy drug rep who tempts Stiller’s character, but all’s well in the end, though the preview audience didn’t laugh much, at least audibly — does pretend laughing count?

On second thought, “all’s well” doesn’t apply to this sequel. Paul Weitz directed it in a style flatter and more obvious than films such as About a Boy (co-directed with his brother, Chris) and In Good Company would indicate.

—MCT, Tribune Media Service

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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