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Meet the Parents: Little Fockers


Stars: Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Jessica Alba, Laura Dern, Harvey Keitel

Director: Paul Weitz

Since the previous two ‘Meet the Parents’ pictures made a fortune at the box-office I suppose a further sequel was inevitable since money, not art, drives the Hollywood movie machine. That said, this face-freezingly mirthless sequel is miserably redundant. I’ve heard more laughs watching a botched post mortem than at the preview screening.

The alleged humour is lumbering, showcasing comic sequences like a child projectile vomiting into someone’s face, the results of a Viagra-clone drug on De Niro, a sequence that would have been junked as dismal and pathetic in ‘Carry On Focking’.

Actually, apart from the clunking, painfully witless screenplay (blame John Hamburg and Larry Stuckey) the saddest aspect of the show is watching De Niro trying to play comedy. He is far less funny than a traffic accident. His idea of comic acting is to pull down the corners of his mouth, smile shyly as though racked with incipient wind and, when those tropes fail (which they almost consistently do) gurn like crazy. Were they to award an Oscar for Worst Comic Performance in 2010, the Academy should greet him as the most deserving winner.

The plot is pathetic – De Niro reverts to his CIA dominance trying to ensure Stiller becomes leader of the Focker clan. Stiller consoles himself by doing his best against dreadful odds that include medical rep Alba making a play for him and having to speak unspeakable dialogue. Actually, it’s unfair to lumber Stiller with that since most of the dialogue is unspeakable, as is Wilson’s smug, unfairly self-satisfied performance as Stiller’s smug, self-satisfied friend. Whenever he was on screen, I prayed for the film to snap.

Commiserations are due to the other luckless actors who were forced to mug like crazy to try and raise laughs from the dismal affair. That they failed isn’t their fault. Given the material they were handed, they deserve high praise for staying on to finish the film instead of simply screaming and heading for the hills as fast as they could go. I can only hope that Hoffman and Streisand in particular were amply rewarded for wasting their time - and mine.

In fairness I should record that there was one positive aspect to the preview screening – anyone who wanted to sleep though this disaster would at least not have been woken up by laughter, apart from the occasional sycophantic snicker from any reviewer keen to keep in with the distributors.

I suppose it is only appropriate that a turkey of this epic proportion should be a Christmas release. Stiller’s on-screen verdict “It’s turkey time” suggested he might agree.

Alan Frank

USA 2010. UK Distributor: Parmount. Colour.
98 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 23 Dec 2010