Saturday, January 1, 2011
Little Fockers [Movie Review]
Little Fockers concludes with a “remix” song of the first two movies. The jokes that were fairly amusing before are reproduced out of context and with painfully obvious set ups. If one were feeling uncharitable, they could compare that unentertaining remix with the entire movie, perhaps ending with a statement like “but at least the remix was shorter.”
Such statements would be completely wrong. Little Fockers is a masterpiece. A marvel of cinema that needs to be seen by all.
Of course, there are some comparisons with prior movies. The first of these is the inappropriateness of every title since the opening film. The first film in the Fockers Trilogy, Meet the Parents, shows Gaylord “Greg” Focker meeting his fiancée's parents for the first time (and no, I did not put the quote marks on the wrong word). Jack Brynes, a retired CIA agent who now gets his kicks from being an overprotective and intrusive parent, mistrusts Gaylord’s intentions, uses over the top espionage techniques to fall victim to misunderstandings, and, at the end, learns a lesson about trust.
The sequel, Meet the Fockers, is nominally about Gaylord’s parents, but is, really, about how Jack (again) mistrusts Gaylord’s intention, uses over the top espionage techniques to fall victim to misunderstandings, and, at the end, learns a lesson about trust. Little Fockers is nominally about Gaylord’s children, but we again focus on how Jack mistrusts Gaylord’s intentions, uses over the top espionage techniques to fall victim to misunderstandings, and, at the end, learns a lesson about trust.
Those with nothing better to do than insult the series talk about how the similarities among the movies show the creators’ dearth of imagination. They might even say, if so inclined, that the varying titles and increasingly more outlandish scenarios are simply attempts to take the same, moderately funny set up (overprotective, ex CIA father) and dress it up in different clothes so that the audience doesn’t realize how horribly tired it is by the third iteration until after they’ve paid their ten dollars.
But such a statement would, of course, be wrong. The various films that comprise the Focker trilogy are each different looks at the same themes, varying takes on the same idea. They are all necessary.
The third movie, for instance, brings us the long awaited resolution to several hanging plot threads, or at least the acknowledgment of several long running but unstated jokes, primarily those to do with names. For instance, Gaylord’s name is, for the first time, used in an overt gay joke. There were, before, raised eyebrows when the name was mentioned in conjunction with his profession as a male nurse, but now we’ve progressed to the out and out explicit joke. The male nurse thing aspect is so fascinating for the creators of the film that they went so far as to put it in quotes in the synopsis displayed in the theater.
In addition, there’s the matter of the Focker name. The word obviously sounds similar to “Fucker,” but the directors before were at least respectful enough of their audience’s intelligence to not go right out and state the similarity. Well, no longer. Little Fockers is intent on allowing even the most dimwitted viewer to appreciate its subtleties, and we get the first (of what this reviewer hopes will be many) jokes about the name.
The names are not the only things made explicit here. The creators spell out every little thing, making sure that no punch line goes off alone and ambiguous to the screen. The Early Human School, for instance, is an obvious (though highly sophisticated) satire of the American fixation for higher learning. But it’s not enough for the school to talk about how many of its kindergarten-aged students go onto the top secondary schools in the nation. No, that might be open to misinterpretation from people who have never heard of ‘college.’ Little Fockers takes the time to explicitly, and repeatedly, draw the connections with Harvard. Thanks movie, I almost missed that one.
I’ve already mentioned that the movie is built on misunderstandings. As anyone who watched the first two movies knows, the misunderstandings basically came from Jack failing to grasp absolutely everything that Gaylord does. Though not exactly the holy grail of screenwriting, the various jokes were written well into the plot, and the soon-to-be-mistaken actions did not come with warning signs attached.
In Little Fockers, on the other hand, every joke is helpfully highlighted. Our hijinks here are so far from integrated that you can hear the plot’s gears grinding and groaning as they painfully try to accommodate the implausible situations that the characters’ repeatedly find themselves in. The overall story is no less predictable. After the opening two scenes, the viewer that could not write the entire story for themselves was most likely watching the movie without volume. Actually, no, I’m sure they’d still be able to understand just about everything they needed from the first sight of our stupid-enough-to-jump-into-a-dirt-pit-thinking-it-was-a-pool female lead.
But is predictability always bad? Little Fockers is not a movie based on shallow twists but rather based on inevitability. We know that Gaylord will get in trouble due to being seen with the aforementioned female lead, but the anticipation as to when exactly the sighting will occur keeps us on the edge of our seats.
In addition to being obvious, the jokes are over the top. Well, you are no doubt saying, duh. But I don’t mean the slightly escalated nature of, say, the truth serum in the second movie. Oh no. This is a whole new level of shameless lack of subtlety, and each joke is ridden long past when the most stoned viewer could possibly find it amusing. Jack takes some medicine for erectile dysfunction and goes on to have a five hour erection. Ha ha. But wait, we’re not done! Turns out that Gaylord has to inject said erection with a shot of adrenaline. Oh the hilarity. But wait! We’re still not done! Gaylord’s son walks in for the moment. Now that is comedy. Or, if that’s not drawn out enough for you, there the scene where two characters are having a fight in a ball pit. Yippee, that’s…not as funny as the writers probably thought it was. And then it goes on. And on. And on.
So, in conclusion, Little Fockers is brilliant. If you’re going to see one movie in your life, consider making it this. Etc.
It is, after all, the kind of comedy so unfunny that it’s not even fun to laugh at, let alone with. It’s just vaguely uncomfortable, which is, of course, the best feeling of all. Or something like that.