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Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro in LITTLE FOCKERS

We have all grown to love the Focker-Byrnes clan with the patriarch Jack Byrnes scaring the the bejeezus out of us. But what happens when that dynamic changes? In Little Fockers Jack Byrnes, Robert de Niro, is disgusted that his favored son-in-law Dr. Bob, Thomas McCarthy, has been caught cheating on his daughter. While he has been watching his other son-in-law Greg, Ben Stiller, his chosen one, Dr. Bob, has let him down. Now Greg looks like the prize son-in-law and everything Jack knows is being tested and challenged. Jack is feeling vulnerable these days, age is catching up with him and his heart is giving him problems. He needs someone strong and reliable to head the family when he dies and now that Dr. Bob is out, that role falls to male nurse Gaylord Focker.

With the coming 5-year-old birthday party of the Focker twins, Jack sees this as an opportunity to mentor his new favorite son. At first Greg is surprised and flattered by the attention but then he becomes suspicious. In trying to please his father-in-law Greg overextends himself financially and takes on a second position as a spokesperson for a new erectile dysfunction drug. The drug rep, Jessica Alba, is all flattery and praise and she even tries to seduce him. When Jack sees Greg in a compromising position he becomes irate at being fooled again. This leads to a confrontation and a comic meltdown which is the best part of the film.

LITTLE FOCKERS movie posterComically this movie felt like it had one bad spark plug. It would be chugging along firing on all cylinders and then bam, there would be a mis-fire. In the attempt to get all of the Focker-Byrnes in one film, some characters felt under-used and some felt out of place entirely. The Focker parents, Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman were practically cameos and the best part of the under-appreciated Blythe Danner was seeing her in pearls trying to bring sexy back.

To crowd the cast even more, Laura Dern plays the director of an exclusive humanistic pre-school, and Harvey Keitel plays a strange ear-ring wearing contractor who tangles with Jack. Owen Wilson is brought back to test the Focker marriage and poor Teri Polo is pretty much relegated into the background and given little to do.

This film feels like it is trying too hard to please every one and therefore it becomes too much and overblown. The parts that really work are the scenes between Jack and Greg. It’s tough for an old lion to pass on the mantle to someone younger. Especially when you have never really appreciated him before. And for Greg, it’s terrifying when you wake up and realize that suddenly “you’re the man”. Our Greg is growing up and Jack is getting old. It’s funny, but sad too. Luckily we still have the original film to cherish. Like a photograph it’s good to remember our glory days.

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