Andy Bockelman: Newest ‘Fockers’ offers little in terms of laughs

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Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

'Little Fockers'

1.5 out of 4 stars

98 minutes

Starring: Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Teri Polo and Owen Wilson.

Now playing at the West Theatre and Steamboat Springs’ Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinema.

Remember that time you had a fight to the death with your wife’s father in the middle of a ball pit?

Of course you don’t, that would be stupid.

But, even this isn’t the most moronic thing in the so-called comedy “Little Fockers.”

Things have never been better between Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and father-in-law Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro). Not that things are that great now, but considering their past, Greg figures the only way to go is up in improving their relationship.

When Jack has a heart-to-heart with Greg about preparing for the future, he is determined to show how dedicated he is in providing for Jack’s daughter Pam (Teri Polo) and grandkids (Colin Baiocchi, Daisy Tahan).

But, the demands of family and work start to weigh heavily on the hard-working son-in-law, leaving Jack suspicious as to whether or not something more is going on in Greg’s life and whether he can handle the responsibilities of fatherhood.

Stiller has never had a problem looking like a buffoon, but by now, we’ve seen about all he has to offer as Greg, for whom nothing seems to go right whenever he’s in the presence of his in-laws. Instead of setting a gazebo ablaze or backing up a septic tank, this time around, his biggest calamities include a turkey carving gone bad and an accidental dumpage of half a ton of sand on his old friend, Jack.

De Niro seems to be getting most of the punishment throughout the movie, not only being subjected to numerous Focker-related accidents but also a recurring cardiac issue that has him worried that his replacement as head of the family will be none other than Greg.

These two are the only cast members even remotely watchable, with Polo and Blythe Danner virtually non-existent as their respective wives.

It could be worse.

Owen Wilson is completely grating in his return as Pam’s ex, Kevin, who naturally continues to show up Greg in every way, all the while claiming to no longer have feelings for Pam. The body art portrait of her on your back says differently, amigo.

Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand also reprise their roles as Greg’s much more laidback parents, Bernie and Roz, and while it’s depressing to think that Babs has starred in only four films in the last 20 years — half of which are “Focker” movies — at least the two high-profile actors only make momentary appearances. This is because Bernie is in the grips of a midlife crisis necessitating him to master the flamenco and Roz is too preoccupied hosting a sex talk show.

Oy vey.

Not that we needed any more wacky personalities, but there are plenty more, such as Harvey Keitel as Greg’s do-nothing contractor, Randy; Laura Dern as Prudence, the dean for an exclusive private school for “early humans”; and Jessica Alba as Andi Garcia, an aggressively flirtatious pharmaceutical rep who’s looking to snag Greg as a medical expert for a new erectile dysfunction pill.

And, maybe more…

Jack’s hasty ingestion of this Viagra knockoff — known as Sustengo — and the inexorable results prove that there truly is no more class to be had in this series.

While “Meet the Parents” was a clever and relatable farce, “Meet the Fockers” increased the raunch and downplayed the heart. But, at least the second in the franchise was funny, even if it was for all the wrong reasons.

The addition of 5-year-old twins Henry and Samantha doesn’t enhance the family feeling we’re supposed to have in the cockles of our heart.

If anything, it makes the whole movie seem all the more embarrassing as the youngest characters seem considerably more mature than their elders.

Given the title, you wouldn’t expect “Little Fockers” to be all that sophisticated, but you’d at least hope that it would recapture the humor of the first in the series. Instead, we’re expected to giggle for the hundredth time as Greg’s given name, Gaylord, is used for more crass gags.

Now playing at the West Theatre and Steamboat Springs’ Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinema.

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