By John P. McCarthy
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — Rather than focus on the next generation of Fockers, as its title implies, the second spawn of 2000’s popular comedy "Meet the Parents" dwells on the infantile behavior of their elders. That wouldn’t be so problematic if the adults’ antics were occasionally humorous or simply benignly juvenile. But "Little Fockers" (Universal) is extremely dull and tasteless at the same time.
Once again, the definition of family values is expanded in a way that many viewers will consider unpalatable, before finally being circumscribed in a more wholesome manner.
In the 2004 sequel "Meet the Fockers," Gaylord (Ben Stiller) and Pam (Teri Polo) traveled to Florida with Pam’s folks, Jack and Dina Byrnes (Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner), to visit Gaylord’s parents, Roz and Bernie (Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman).
When "Little Fockers" opens a half-decade later, Gaylord and Pam are living in a Chicago apartment with their twins Henry (Colin Baiocchi) and Samantha (Daisy Tahan). The couple is hoping renovations on their new home will be completed in time for the children’s fifth birthday party. Meanwhile, Gaylord is juggling his parental duties with his career responsibilities as a nursing administrator in a city hospital.
As the date for the party approaches, Jack suffers a mild heart attack, yet keeps it a secret from everyone except Gaylord. Concerned that the Byrnes-Focker clan will be left without a male leader in the event of his demise, the wily ex-spy nominates Gaylord to assume the patriarchal mantle.
The substance of the action is the bonding and jousting that result from this intergenerational transfer of authority. The Byrnes arrive in town for the celebration and Jack — whose coronary episode hasn’t noticeably slowed him down — proceeds to meddle in Gaylord’s affairs, advising him to enroll the twins in an expensive private school and encouraging him to get his financial house in order.
As if Jack’s interference weren’t distracting enough, two other characters complicate Gaylord’s life. Pam’s old flame Kevin (Owen Wilson) returns from a long stint abroad. And at work, comely if slightly unhinged drug rep Andi Garcia (Jessica Alba) recruits Gaylord to shill for Sustengo, a new erectile dysfunction medicine designed to be safe for heart patients.
Just as young Henry and Samantha are merely foils for the in-law tension between Gaylord and Jack, Roz and Bernie are incidental to the plot, a circumstance that will disappoint those who relished watching the veteran performers let their hair down in "Meet the Fockers."
No matter which characters are involved, the gags in "Little Fockers" all function on the same asinine and fairly raunchy level. Few are amusing and all are ploddingly staged by Paul Weitz ("American Pie"), who has taken over from Jay Roach, director of the first two movies. Along with potty-mouthed dialogue and numerous sexual references, the lowest-common-denominator litany includes Andi and Gaylord administering an enema to a hospital patient (and finding it erotic).
After Henry accidentally sees his father perform a disturbing medical procedure on his grandfather (necessitated by Sustengo), Jack offers to erase the boy’s memory using psychological techniques he mastered as a CIA agent during the 1970s. Gaylord dissuades him. But, after sitting through "Little Fockers," viewers might volunteer to have their memories wiped clean.
The film contains frequent sexual banter, including references to sex toys, condoms and masturbation; some sexual situations and profanity; much crude and crass language; toilet humor; and a bruising fistfight. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
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McCarthy is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.