Meet the Parents was a film about what happens when a seemingly normal guy, Greg Focker, meets his girlfriend's overbearing father for the first time. Meet the Fockers, the 2004 sequel, took things to the next level with the addition of veteran actors Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand as Greg's touchy-feely hippie Jewish parents, who mixed and clashed with his WASPy suburban in-laws. That twist on the same premise was passable, but in Little Fockers you sort of feel like they should have moved past that idea. Don't let the title fool you -- the film doesn't focus so much on the kids (though all of the events in the film lead up to an epic birthday party), but more on Greg and Jack's never-ending on-again, off-again relationship. That's not to say that there aren't any laughs, because there are, but the franchise is starting to get stale. Without a new premise to drop these characters in, Little Fockers feels like a diluted version of its predecessors.
This time around, Gaylord "Greg" Focker (Ben Stiller) has settled into married life, has two kids, and job as a hospital administrator. Meanwhile, Jack (Robert De Niro) is obsessed with the family genealogy. You see, Jack wants to pass the torch to Greg (aka "The Godfocker"), but isn't sure if Greg is up for the task. Greg wants Jack to deem him worthy, but has one little problem -- money. Enter, Andi Garcia (Jessica Alba), a pharmaceutical rep for a Viagra-like drug called Sustengo (it's safe for heart patients!), who convinces Greg to endorse the drug and reap a big payday. However, when Jack suspects that Greg is having an affair with Ms. Garcia, he'll stop at nothing to expose the alleged infidelity.
New to the Fockers franchise is Jessica Alba, who does what she does best -- look pretty -- though she has decent comedic timing and adds a bit of freshness to the franchise. Owen Wilson returns as the free-spirited millionaire ex-boyfriend who still harbors a fondness for Pam. His character mostly just hangs around as a foil to Greg -- well, that and his compound is the backdrop for the climatic birthday party. There are some surprising cameos by Laura Dern as the head of the Early Human School, Harvey Keitel as a building contractor, and Deepak Chopra as, well, himself. Oddly, Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand are mostly absent from the film, checking in now and again by phone and cracking sex jokes that make everyone, including the audience, just a wee bit uncomfortable.
In lieu of great substance, the film tends to fall back on such situation-comedy favorites as children throwing up on adults and uncomfortable questions from your father-in-law about your sex life -- not to mention a four-year-old walking in on his dad giving his grandpa a penile injection to counter the effect of Sustengo. Despite all that, there are some truly laugh-out-loud moments, and the characters are the most endearing aspect of the franchise.
Still, no one would mistake this for an Oscar-worthy masterpiece, as the franchise is running out of steam. Nevertheless, Little Fockers is most certainly a comedic alternative to the flashiness of, say, Tron: Legacy or the intensity of Black Swan. So if you're looking for something light-hearted to watch post-Christmas present extravaganza, this fits the bill nicely.