The funny Fockers are back

2010-12-27 00:00

FANS of the Meet the Parents franchise are likely to welcome the return of their favourite dysfunctional family. All the regular characters are back, and knowing these misfits, we can anticipate some wickedly funny situations. Some cineastes may, however, find themselves contemplating the law of diminishing comedic returns that blights sequels like Little Fockers.

Meet the Parents introduced us to a lovable couple terrorised by the girl’s gung-ho and obstinate father. We know the formula well, along with its Freudian undertones. Robert de Niro plays Pops, brimming with patriarchal menace, the stuff of nightmares for courting couples. There’s a nod to Blofeld here, the cat-stroking adversary of James Bond, and in Little Fockers he demands that son-in-law Gaylord (Ben Stiller) take over the mantle of family Godfather or “Godfocker”. His ticker has been giving him a little trouble and he needs to know that “the family” will be taken care of. Of course we know Gaylord will struggle to assert himself and there is the added problem of the sexy medical rep (Jessica Alba) who’s hitting on him.

Gaylord is filled with good intentions and decides to prove his Godfather credentials by sorting out the kids’ schooling and arranging their birthday party. The stakes are upped with the arrival of his wife’s super ex-boyfriend (Owen) on the scene and his attempts to keep the increasingly provocative medical rep at bay. All the while his father-in-law prowls.

Stiller and De Niro work like a charm and it is really their chemistry that has sustained all the films. Kudos to the casting director.

The plot has plenty to build upon, but the writer has taken a convoluted path in engineering the all-important comedic situations. At times they feel a little contrived. Also, the talents of Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand, so wonderfully realised in the second film, go largely untapped and Harvey Keitel is completely wasted.

A little disappointing in the end, but good enough to while away a couple of hours on a rainy day.

***

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