Little Fockers (review)

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What the Fock

It astonishes me that people — many people — proudly put their names on this movie, even the ones who aren’t onscreen and so could have escaped unknown. Maybe they all used pseudonyms. It’s mystifying enough trying to fathom just what the hell an actor with the stature of Robert DeNiro is doing in a movie that finds the height of its humor in a child’s projectile vomiting and four-hour boners. But I suppose he’s stuck with it at this point, and had best make the best of it. Though wouldn’t anyone who could avoid being associated with it jump at the chance?
You know — or perhaps you don’t — that some credits on movies are contractually obligated. There are particular ways in which, say, writers are required by union rules and the like to be credited on a movie. It might not seem like anything other than a long list of names you’re watching rolling up the screen as the lights come up, but there is precision and deliberation in how they are presented. I always assumed, as one naturally would, that this is something that unions have negotiated in order to avoid their members not getting the professional recognition they deserve. But a movie like Little Fockers makes me wonder if it isn’t the other way around: if the studios aren’t ensuring that the shame gets spread wide enough around to everyone entitled to bear the brunt 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 unwilling, a movie that is both baffling and pointless. Director Paul Weitz (Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, American Dreamz) and screenwriters John Hamburg (I Love You, Man, Along Came Polly) and Larry Stuckey have neither the courage of their juvenile grossout convictions nor the ingenuity to figure out what might be funny if, as the tenor of the film seems to suggest, they know they, as adult human people, really shouldn’t be offering a child’s projectile vomiting and four-hour boners as something other adult human people will find humorous. Because for all the grossout that is here — Ben Stiller’s (Megamind, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian) nurse Greg Focker bonds with drug rep Jessica Alba (Machete, Valentine’s Day) 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, neglecting to offer a punchline, and trying 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 (DeNiro: Stone, Everybody’s Fine), 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: Beyond Borders, Meet the Parents), 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, such as by Owen Wilson’s (How Do You Know, Marmaduke) 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 makes 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 DeNiro can have an onscreen 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 so that you can work DeNiro around to saying the punchline 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, and so won’t notice when it’s nothing more than two damn hours of arbitrary assholery and unconnected melodrama masquerading as a movie.

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