Little Fockers

Skip itThere is something truly despairing about following Robert DeDiro’s transition from a great dramatic act to a goofy, asinine comic. It feels like watching a loved one slowly deteriorate into madness and ill health; at first it might be amusing – forgettfulness, unpredictable faux pas, weird behaviour like fruit oranges under the bed, reading books upside down, etcetera  – but never far away there is a niggling sense of sadness and helplessness that hits home harder the more you see and hear.

Like the energiser bunny DeNiro just keeps going and going and going with his laboured parody-of-himself shtick no matter how many wires short-circuit, no matter how many snarling reviews. The latest blight in his long and distinguished career is Little Fockers, the second sequel to 2000’s so-so hit Meet the Parents.

Fockers is oddly bereft of a story; the standard response, perhaps, is to say this comedy is going through the rounds but that insinutes it knows what its doing and which boxes to tick. Not so.

Shortly after the movie begins grumpy ex-CIA agent-cum-grandpa Jack (DeNiro) realises, after studying his family tree, that he needs an heir to keep the family crest alive. His only option is the wimpy Gaylord Focker (Stiller).

That’s a vague premise, not a story. Weitz uses it to riff awkwardly on the idea that Focker should man up and act the part, though he approaches that concept half heartedly, as if he and everybody else knew no foundation for a movie maketh.

The first two flicks in the series, Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers, had their moments but the chemistry between DeNiro and Stiller is now excruciatingly strained, the proverbail rotten tooth being ever so slowly extracted. Why either actor would touch this script with a ten foot clown pole is a real noodle scratcher. They don’t need the money, and they’re both worthy of a great deal more.

Jessica Alba joins the cast as a ditzy pharmaceutical rep with a crush on Greg. It’s a cringe inducing role; ditzy and goofy aren’t a stretch for Alba but still she manages to crash and burn.

Little Fockers lumbers between awkwardly staged gags. Director Paul Weitz (American Pie, About a Boy, Cirque de Freak) scrambles to find comedy in slapstick and gross out – a fist fight, a vomit in the face, a cat eating lizard, a carve the turkey scene that ends in blood spraying everything – and the results are embarrassing for everyone. It’s unfortunate – very, very unfortunate – that DeNiro is now very accustomed to playing and looking the fool, and not in a good way.

Little Fockers’ Australian theatrical release date: December 26, 2010.