"Little Fockers" is an easy target.
Aside from Teri Polo's agent, not many people were clamoring for a sequel to 2004's "Meet the Fockers." But Universal went ahead and reunited the Focker family anyway, adding two kids to the mix in an attempt to appeal to family audiences over the holidays.
The holidays, of course, are the perfect time for comfort food at the multiplex, and that's exactly what "Little Fockers" is. Everything you think it will be … and probably a bit better.
Director Paul Weitz ("American Pie") takes the reins of the franchise this time around, and while the script by John Hamburg and Larry Stuckey is more than a little lazy, it serves its function while delivering a steady stream of laughs.
Gaylord Focker, aka Greg (Ben Stiller) and wife Pam (Polo) are now middle-aged and feeling the pressure of work and raising adorable twins (Daisy Tahan, Colin Baiocchi). Greg is busy renovating the family's dream home while Pam focuses on getting the kids into the renowned Early Human School, run by Prudence (Laura Dern).
Meanwhile, Pam's parents, Jack (Robert De Niro) and Dina Byrnes (Blythe Danner) are flying to Chicago for the twins' birthday party. After he arrives, Jack suffers a minor heart attack, and decides it's finally time to anoint Greg "the Godfocker" -- putting him in charge of the Byrnes family circle of trust, which has recently been betrayed by the cheating Dr. Bob (Tom McCarthy), formerly known as "the Bobfather."
Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand are back in a limited capacity as Greg's parents, Bernie and Roz Focker. Pam's former flame Kevin (Owen Wilson) gets more screen time, including a scene on a boat with Deepak Chopra and a bevy of beautiful babes. Also on hand for this go-round: Jessica Alba as a sexy drug rep who wants Greg's support for a new erectile dysfunction medication and Harvey Keitel as a construction worker who causes additional headaches for Greg.
As you can tell, there are more supporting characters than necessary in "Little Fockers," but all of them are merely window dressing. The movie works best when it's just Stiller and De Niro doing their thing, In fact, they have so much rapport at this point, all they have to do is look at one another to induce laughter.
Interestingly enough, "Little Fockers" was deemed a "troubled production" because Hoffman's return was initially in question when Universal balked at paying his fee. Keitel's character was introduced as a place-holder/replacement and therefore feels awkwardly shoehorned into the movie. Still, film buffs will get a minor kick out of seeing "Taxi Driver" co-stars De Niro and Keitel go toe-to-toe during one silly shouting match.
On the other hand, Alba makes for a nice addition to the cast, bringing an infectious energy to her role as the film's eye candy. And Polo continues to be among the luckiest actresses in Hollywood. Virtually nothing is asked of her and her character is predictably sidelined early on with a conspicuous cold.
Fortunately, Stiller picks up the comedic slack armed with a secret weapon -- children. His daughter mopes around refusing to talk to him, but his son is a key part of many of the film's funniest sequences, whether he's falling off a rock wall unsupervised while Greg lectures Jack on how he knows what's best for his son, or whether he walks in on his father administering a shot to Grandpa Jack's excited genitals.
If there's one false step, it's that this time around, Jack actively tries to get Pam back into Kevin's arms, ten years after she chose Greg. Yes, Jack mistakenly believes that Greg is cheating on Pam with Andi, but you can't have Jack bestow the "Godfocker" title on his son-in-law in one scene, and then have him try to sabotage his own daughter's marriage in the next. It gave Jack an air of unlikeability that made him seem more like an antagonist than I think the filmmakers initially intended.
Weitz has certainly made better films ("About a Boy" and "In Good Company" come to mind), but with "Little Fockers" he's shown that he can deliver a commercial comedy with broad appeal. It may be predicated on fart, vomit and booger jokes, but kids will enjoy the juvenile shenanigans and adults with low standards who are looking for a few easy laughs will have fun as well.
Be sure to stick around through the credits for a funny YouTube remix.