Releasing Studio: Universal
Disc/Transfer Specifications: 1080p High Definition 1.85:1; Region 1 (U.S.) Release
Video Codec: VC-1
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Director: Paul Weitz
Starring Cast: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Teri Polo, Owen Wilson, Jessica Alba
OSAGE'S PLOT ANALYSIS:
Two things struck me about the third installment (and hopefully the last) of the uber-successful Focker/Parents franchise – the first was how gorgeous Jessica Alba really is, and the second, just how old Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel are getting. Long gone are the days of these guys facing each other down on a grimy New York City street amongst dope fiends, hookers and thieves in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver when they were in their prime – they can now pass for honest-to-goodness AARP poster boys. But Oh My L-d…did I mention how gleefully stunning Ms. Alba is in this?
The wife and I saw this theatrically, and being somewhat “fans” of the first two, we decided to get it for our collection now that it’s out on Blu-ray – however, Universal’s “combo” packaging for this title strikes me as being odd, given that you get a DVD copy, a Blu-ray copy and “access” to a “digital copy” (which every studio is doing now and which makes no sense to me – I mean, do I really need to watch a film while I’m jogging in Central Park, or defecating in an airplane toilet?)…what do we need two different formats for when we want to buy the Blu-ray version? I don’t get that. Be that as it may, the franchise went towards its inevitable route of introducing the Focker children that Greg and Pam were bound to have (Ben Stiller and Teri Polo, respectively) and the fact that the series has taken a bit of a different flavor with a different director didn’t make things easier. As has already been discussed on countless and seemingly infinite forums thus far, Little Fockers just seems tiring in the scheme of things, really making critics wonder if Universal truly feels like they still have a cash cow on their hands with this franchise. The whole “De Niro being the psycho father in law thing” just isn’t as funny as it once was, and all this mayhem really peaked in Meet the Fockers, which still wasn’t as fresh or as funny in many places as the original Meet the Parents. Worse, where Barbara Streisand and Dustin Hoffman, as Stiller’s character’s parents, were hysterical in most of Meet the Fockers as they went absolutely batcrap in their “Focker Island” retreat, here they’re pretty much wasted window dressing, getting some odd screen time towards the end with no material to work with. The film opens with Stiller and Polo with their new family – twins that seem to have come from wildly different DNA streams, and of course, it isn’t long before De Niro is back in their lives as the father in law from hell (or from the CIA in this case), attempting to yet again interfere in Greg’s abilities as a new parent. In reality, someone would have punched this old man in the mouth already – regardless of his so called “status” as a covert operator – sending his dentures flying from one side of the room to the other, being that he just won’t let go of his little “Pam Cakes” nor will he stop harassing her husband until he’s a nervous, quaking mess. I sure would have by then.
It’s not just De Niro and Keitel who are getting old – take a good look at the graying Stiller or even Polo, who is coming a long way since her controversial unclothed pictorial. The whole thing just feels like it’s been done before, and the punchlines are simply not as effective as they once were – Greg and Pam are living in a small Chicago apartment until their new suburban house is built, trying to raise their two brats, until grandpa Jack and wife Dina are back on the scene, taking a trip to Chicago to see their daughter, hated son in law and their two grandkids. Also back is Owen Wilson’s “Kevin” character who is as batty and off the wall as ever, and who still can’t let go of Pam, even going so far as to get a tattoo of her face on his back with the inscription “Always” – even though he claims it was an error at the tattoo parlor. Things go from bad to worse when De Niro’s Jack Byrnes character begins interfering, once more, in Greg and Pam’s plans to put the kids in an “Early Human School” for developmentally advanced rug rats – and if that wasn’t bad enough, Greg begins a strange relationship with a beautiful but demented drug rep (the delicious Jessica Alba) who tries to get him to pedal a new ED pill. Alba, while gorgeous in this, plays one of the most annoying characters ever put to celluloid – she’s like white trash out of a ghetto of some kind, constantly fist-bumping Greg and saying how much he “rocks.” Obviously having the hots for Stiller’s character (which I will never understand with those Dumbo ears and just maladjusted facial features), Alba’s behavior gets stranger and stranger as she practically begs him to give a speech at a local hospital for the erectile dysfunction drug. Oh – and Greg Focker is the head of nursing at a Chicago hospital now…or something.
Jack (De Niro), of course suspicious, follows Greg everywhere, attempting to catch him cheating on Pam to once and for all convince her Greg isn’t for him – and that Kevin always was. Again, something I would have already punched this old bag in the mouth for. Mayhem ensues, after Alba gets drunk at the seminar Greg speaks at and posts a picture on a social network site of the two of them faux kissing, De Niro takes the erectile dysfunction pills thus forcing Stiller’s character to inject his private area with an adrenaline shot (which Greg’s son who is obsessed with a lizard named “Arthur” walks in on) and finally an all-out family battle which again forces Greg to storm out of the apartment to spend the night at the new house which is being built. The catch here is that Alba drives him to the house, and being so drunk, proceeds to seduce him before diving into the hole in the backyard dug for a swimming pool. Meanwhile, Greg’s parents – Roz and Bernie Focker (Streisand and Hoffman) – have moved beyond Focker Island and sautéing Greg’s foreskin in a fondue pot, along with hanging his filthy, fly-infested old jock straps on the wall. Bernie has taken up Flamenco dancing in Spain, still acting like a nut while Roz, on the other hand, has a talk show all about senior sexuality, which was her specialty in the last film. Flying into Chicago for Greg’s kids’ birthday bash he and Pam have planned, Bernie shows up at Greg’s not-yet-finished house to find him and Alba on top of each other at the bottom of the hole dug for the pool, Alba still half dressed and covered in mud. What’s worse is that De Niro peeped into the house the night before to find a drunken Alba all over Greg – even though in reality, Greg was trying to get Alba off him.
Harvey Keitel portrays, for a couple of brief scenes, a weathered construction worker, contracted to do Greg’s house, and he gets into some funny tussles with De Niro’s character, which will ultimately remind film fanatics about their screen time together in the aforementioned Taxi Driver, in which De Niro played the deranged psychopath driver Travis Bickle who hunts down and blows the brains out of Keitel’s “Matthew” pimp character for mistreating Jodie Foster who plays his primary hooker. Still, Keitel isn’t given near enough character time here, seemingly feeling as if it was a cheap shot by director Paul Weitz just to get these two screen legends together again. The film culminates with a giant, multi-thousand-dollar birthday bash for Greg and Pam’s kids, being held at Kevin’s gigantic mansion (complete with miniature Cadillac Escalades to be driven like golf carts) but this isn’t made so clear, as we are to believe that Kevin lives not too far from Pam and Greg, after we thought he was living on an estate in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York in the first film. Some ridiculous antics ensue at the end, with a Flamenco dancing Hoffman showing up, along with Streisand, Owen Wilson himself doing some ridiculous acrobatics like the nut he is, Stiller and De Niro going at it in a fist fight to settle their feelings once and for all amidst a pen full of kids and balls and Jinx the cat eating Arthur the lizard – but not really. Throughout all of this, Jack still doesn’t think Greg has what it takes to lead the Focker clan into the next generation – thus becoming what he calls “The Godfocker.” But all that changes when Jack, gripping his chest, goes into cardiac arrest for the second time in the film (the first time had De Niro’s character defiblulating himself with bare wires) and possibly has a change of heart – perhaps literally.
The film concludes on a positive note, though, with Roz, Bernie, Dina, Jack, Pam and Greg – and the brats – getting together for the holidays in Pam and Greg’s house, celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas in a fused conglomerate, while Jack sits on whoopee cushions and we learn that Kevin (Wilson) ends up with Alba. Oh – and Greg’s parents (Streisand and Hoffman) make the announcement that they have moved to Chicago, buying the house just two doors down from Greg and Pam. Does this suggest a fourth installment to come?
Little Fockers isn’t nearly as chuckle-inducing as the first, or even the second, film in the series, what with Greg stomping around in the skimpy Speed-O bathing suit, smashing Pam’s sister (the real actress who portrayed her dying sometime before the second film came out I believe) in the head with a volleyball, overflowing the septic system, painting Jinx’s tail with spray paint, or watching Hoffman go apecrap as he performs his “martial arts/dancing” fusion on Focker Island. For those familiar with the characters or just fans of the franchise in general, this is a worthwhile purchase. But it truly does feel like this storyline is getting long in the tooth – or as droopy as De Niro and Keitel’s Depends.
VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS:
As with the previous films in the franchise, Universal delivers a delicious, bold and eye-popping 1.85:1 transfer which filled my screen with no letterboxing, and with rich, dazzling, detail-riddled colors and images – this was a top-notch Blu-ray transfer from beginning to end, exhibiting no noise or grain that I could detect, and searing with popping-off-the-screen visuals that were a marvel to behold. All of you with LED LCD screens, I can only imagine how much better Little Fockers looked on your home theaters compared to my rear projection display.
Colors were amped and wildly vivid, almost bordering on cartoonish, while facial details, contrast levels, depth of field and picture quality stability were absolutely rock-solid and explosive. A top-notch video transfer from Universal, once more, for this Blu-ray title.
AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS:
Albeit “wasted” on a film such as this, the DTS-HD Master Audio mix served the dialogue well enough, with nothing really going on in the surrounds. There really wasn’t anything to comment on with regard to the audio on Little Fockers; beyond dialogue intelligibility and some brief, subtle front channel spread, the audio mix had no outstanding qualities one way or the other.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATIONS:
If you feel compelled to complete your franchise collection, as my wife and I did (well, really more her than me), then by all means purchase Little Fockers. The Blu-ray boasts a near-reference quality video transfer that really showcases what this format can do, even all these years into the high definition craze. What I didn’t like, and what still confuses me, was Universal’s awkward and downright annoying packaging for this title – why do we need the DVD version with the Blu-ray? I’m sure there’s an answer for this, but it’s lost on me, and I think it lets studios jack up the prices for these titles, along with the nonsensical “digital copies” embedded, or available, for these films. Watching the marketing commercials before the main features on these discs makes me scratch my head even more, wondering what this whole thing is all about – you get a digital copy to download to watch somewhere, plus the chance to watch titles like Meet the Parents and Fast and Furious via a You Tube download or something for $3.99? What? Why would I possibly do that?
At any rate, this wasn’t the worst comedy ever made – we may be saving The Dilemma for that accolade – even though it was the least entertaining of the franchise trio. Alba was smokin’ in this, if beyond annoying and cliché, while Streisand and Hoffman were both wasted in terms of screen time and opportunity to truly tear stuff up like they did in Meet the Fockers. Stiller and Polo are just getting old, and, as for De Niro, well, he really needs to hang it up already. He’s no longer Jimmy the Gent from Goodfellas, nor is he the awesome tattooed psychopath he portrayed in Scorsese’s remake of Cape Fear.
Does the future hold yet another entry into this tired series? Only time will tell.
Let’s hear your thoughts!