Thursday, December 30, 2010

Back at the Movies

Ok, I’ll admit it: Little Fockers was a little bit better than I thought it would be.

Canadian Lou and I took in the 3rd installment of the Focker franchise at the Clifton Country Mall theatre on Wednesday night. If you haven’t had a chance to soak in this long-anticipated flick, let me give you the broad strokes. The story starts with Gaylord Focker (Stiller) and Pam Cakes (Polo) as the parents of two 5-year-old twins (one boy, one girl). It’s a hectic life but they love it. Meanwhile Jack Byrnes (De Niro) is furious with his other daughter’s husband, Dr. Bob, who’s been cast out of the family and Byrnes’ circle of trust for having an extra-marital affair. Byrnes begins having heart problems, and realizes he needs to figure out who could oversee the Byrnes family clan if he is to meet his demise. I liked the Sopranos handling of this dilemma much better. With no other choice, he dubs Gaylord the GodFocker. Gaylord takes the distinction very seriously and decides to start moonlighting for a pharmaceutical company that sells an erectile pill, giving speeches on nursing for extra cash. The woman who hires him to do this, is the beautiful but unwatchable Jessica Alba. Immediately Jack Byrnes begins to think that Gaylord is having an affair with Alba’s character, which does little to help his deteriorating health. Throw in a few cameos by Hoffman and Babs (Gaylord’s parents) and another by Owen Wilson’s Kevin character, still in love with Pam after all these years, and you have part 3 in a nutshell. Oh yeah, don’t forget the famous feline, Mr. Jinx.

I went into this movie with super-low expectations, as you guys already know. Meet the Parents was one of the greatest movies ever made, in any genre. It was brilliant. The sequel, Meet the Fockers, was horrendous. It was stupid, corny, recycled and amateurish from start to finish. Hoffman and Babs were like razor blades down a 10,000-foot-tall chalkboard. DeNiro looked fed up with his own on-screen personality, and Stiller just went from scene to scene in a constant state of “what the heck is going on in this movie?” Part 3, Little Fockers, was nowhere near the original, but it was much better than the sequel.

The premise is pretty ridiculous and the cameos come off as artificial and way too coincidental, but some way, somehow, Stiller and DeNiro make it kind of, sort of work. Make no mistake: these two men are at the heart of the film. They are rock solid in their personas, and give the auxiliary characters a lot of room to mess up, flub, and fumble through scenes. Owen Wilson hasn’t been funny in anything except the original Parents. But let’s be honest, Dr. Claw would’ve killed with that script. This flick is no different. The whole time Wilson was on screen, I kept asking myself how this poor man’s Vince Vaughn even has a Hollywood career. The soft-spoken delivery has no hitting impact, and the cooler than school thing he’s been trying to pull off since Kate Hudson once again falls flat as an oil spill. But he’s James Dean compared to Jessica Alba, who’s introduction into this 3rd installment almost single-handedly destroys the franchise. Alba is beautiful, no doubt, but her acting skills couldn’t fill a thimble. She is so over the top, and phony, and lost in space in this portrayal, that you’re just cringing to get her off screen. If this movie, with all its moving parts, was a world of snowmen and sledding trails, Alba is a weeklong heat wave in December. She destroys one potentially-good movie after the other, and A-List rewards her with role after role. I must meet her agent, and congratulate him on the success of his selling- ketchup-popsicles-to-movie-makers-wearing-white-gloves business. Well done, friend.

If the greatest comedies of all time (Dumb & Dumber, Old School, Meet the Parents, Coming to America) sit eternally together like the cool kids in a high school cafeteria, Little Fockers is eating alone in the bathroom stall, lunch tray on lap, like Lindsey Lohan in Mean Girls. Time will quickly forget this flick, no doubt, but Stiller does manage to throw dirt on Part 2 of his greatest franchise ever, his only franchise in fact. But please, I beg, if there’s any respect left for how great the first one was, please, please, stop puking up these additional and unneeded chapters. In the same way Michael Jordan played a few too many seasons and Brett Favre should’ve retired 26 years ago, Ben Stiller I plead for you to let this thing end at GodFocker and stabbing DeNiro down low with a medicinal needle. And that’s the whole problem with Fockers. It started out as sheer brilliance (Meet the Parents) then just became slap-sticky and ridiculous. It would be like John Lennon doing American Idol.

Thanks to the USA Network and TNT we will still receive our periodical reminder of the original, albeit formatted to fit my TV. But now it’s time to put this puppy on a stretcher and wheel it inside the open double doors of history’s ambulance, while a pulse can still be detected. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that’s a spoiler. If you haven’t, well I guess you know the same thing now. On that note it ends, and I thank Stiller and DeNiro for giving us one great funny flick, a train wreck in part 2, and a few, far-between laughs to carry us always in part 3. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Sidebar: You may remember the last time I went to the movies. Read:
I was involved in an altercation at the candy counter when the cashier said I could not buy candy throughout the night at the same $2.50 rate, advertised with the popcorn/soda combo. I was told the computer would not allow that to happen. Last night, after much probing, I got the girl working counter to admit that the computer line was in fact complete horse crap. She admitted that they can make the computer do whatever they want it to, whenever they want it. I knew it all along!

Now on facebook @ the Cat's Pajamas

Brian Huba

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