"Little Fockers" is a well-intentioned comedy that, true to its title, lands the little laughs, if not the big ones.
The title refers to the girl and boy twins of Gaylord "Greg" Focker (Ben Stiller) and his wife, Pam (Teri Polo). In the storyline for the movie, the children are not much more than titular.
The third installment is more about the "Big Fockers," mainly Greg and his father-in-law, Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro), and their control, as well as their out-of-control, issues.
Director Paul Weitz ("In Good Company," "About A Boy," "American Pie") moves the story along at a satisfying pace. The screenplay by John Hamburger (co-writer, "Meet the Fockers," 2004; "Meet the Parents," 2000) and Larry Stuckey makes some telling points about the need to separate family law from the in-laws.
There are several funny scenes, but few big payoffs. The chuckles are there. How they get there is another matter.
The cringe-worthy jokes are at the level of pull-my-finger, Whoopee Cushion and sexual double entendre humor. In fact, there is a Whoopee Cushion joke. There is also a pull-my-finger joke. And, based on the movie's title alone, there is plenty of double-entendre.
The episodic humor is akin to that of a TV sit-com, the difference here being that you have stars who don't usually appear in TV movies and sit-coms. And they are able to lift the material off the page.
It's fun to see De Niro "slumming" from his lauded and lofty serious roles ("Cape Fear," "Raging Bull," "Deer Hunter") to walk on the mild side of the street. De Niro has trod this territory before in his "Analyze This-That" roles.
De Niro is able to let go of the seriousness, and let go he does, with an "Austin Powers" worthy sight gag (which recalls a famous Stiller scene in "There's Something About Mary") and some physical comedy (again with Stiller) worthy of Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment.
Stiller ("Greenberg," "Tropic Thunder," "Night at the Museum") rarely drops his droll Keatonesque face mask, which makes him all the more hilarious.
Jessica Alba is delightfully cartoonish in a comedic turn as a pharmaceutical sales person with a product like those advertised for men on TV.
"Little Fockers" has a parade of movie and show business stars in roles where they don't make much of an impression. The supporting roles could have been played by any number of big-name talents.
Owen Wilson is his usual smarmy self as Greg's longtime pal, cracking wise as he pursues a spiritual path, made possible by a satisfying investment portfolio.
Barbra Streisand swans through her scenes as Greg's mother and host of a sex therapy-themed TV show.
Dustin Hoffman is in approximately five scenes as Greg's father. He's cute. Blink, though, and you could miss him.
Blythe Danner, as Jack Byrnes' wife, proves a calming and understanding presence.
Laura Dern has a small role as superintendent of the fictional Early Human School, a private grade school.
Harvey Keitel is in two scenes as a home remodeler foreman.
"Little Fockers" is a mixed-bag. While it's not coal in your Christmas stocking, it's not that favorite present under the tree, either.
The in-laws may relocate to Chicago. So, get ready for "The Fockers Next Store."
"Little Fockers," Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for mature sexual humor throughout, language and some drug content; Genre: Comedy; Run time: 1 hr., 38 min.; Distributed by Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures.
Credit Readers Anonymous: At the start of the "Little Fockers" concluding credits, there's a remix, a la Quest Love of The Roots and "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," of several Ben Stiller scenes.
Box Office, Dec. 22: "Little Fockers," with $34 million for the Dec. 24 Christmas holiday weekend and $48.3 million since opening Dec. 22, held off "True Grit," opening with $25.6 million for the weekend and $36.8 million since Dec. 22. "Tron: Legacy" dropped from No. 1 to No. 3, $20.1 million; $88.2 million, two weeks.
4. "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," $10.8 million, $63.9 million, three weeks; 5. "Yogi Bear," $8.8 million, $36.7 million, two weeks; 6. "The Fighter," $8.5 million, $27.5 million, three weeks; 7. "Gulliver's Travels," $7.2 million, opening Dec. 25; 8. "Black Swan," $6.6 million, $29 million, four weeks; 9. "Tangled," $6.5 million, $143.7 million, five weeks; 10. "The Tourist," $5.7 million, $41.1 million, three weeks
"The King's Speech," continuing, MPAA Rated R: Colin Firth stars, in what is a sure-fire Oscar-nominated turn, as King George VI, thrust into symbolic leadership of Great Britain during World War II. His challenge is to overcome a stutter so that his radio speeches can inspire his country. The film, based on a true story, also stars Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush as the king's tutor.
"Blue Valentine," opening Dec. 29 in limited release, MPAA Rated R: Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play a troubled working-class couple in the drama.
"Another Year," opening Dec. 29 in limited release, MPAA Rated PG-13: Director Mike Leigh directs Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen as a happily-married couple in the autumn years of their lives in the comedy-drama.
Two Popcorn Boxes out Five Popcorn Boxes