Review- Little Fockers

Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller in Little Fockers (Paramount)

What is the saving grace of Little Fockers? It is that eventually the story ends up being more about Jack’s (Robert De Niro) psychotic persecution of Greg (Ben Stiller) than it does about the misunderstandings and unnecessary comeuppance that he got in the first installment of this series and set the tone for the characters.

The worse thing that a comedy can do is make you feel sorry for a character who has gotten himself in a difficult situation. That’s what the first film did in my estimation and what this installment narrowly avoids. How it manages to do that is by giving Greg just enough culpability such that we can comfortably chuckle at the mess he’s gotten himself into and not really sweat the outcome too much.

While it is rarely, if ever, highbrow humor Little Fockers does manage to be quite funny through most of it. However, it is never really about the aforementioned Fockers. There are two subplots about them: One is that Samantha (Daisy Tahan) isn’t speaking to Greg, which is resolved easily enough and another is that Greg and Pam want to enroll her and Henry (Colin Baiocchi) in a high-priced private school, however, that one never really resolves itself. Kevin (Owen Wilson) says he’ll talk to the head of the school and get them another interview after a little fiasco and that’s the end of that.

When Jack and Greg’s argument finally comes to a head and in the midst of the physical confrontation Greg is trying to explain himself, as he has put himself in the situation of making Jack think he is sleeping with Andi (Jessica Alba), a work associate, the apology/explanation is quickly accepted which is both somewhat of a relief and also a bit facile.

It does manage to be a funny film because of its cast but it is getting a little crowded even though everyone is talented they are starting to run up against All-Star Cast Syndrome, which is when there are too many recognizable actors that you want to see involved in the same project. For example, Barbara Streisand and Dustin Hoffman are both very funny but their time is fleeting; Laura Dern is also hysterical but she likely gets more time than they do. Jessica Alba is quite good, albeit this isn’t a very involved character and she gets more time than those just mentioned.

The laughs stay pretty consistent throughout with one glaring exception and that is the ending. Now most of this is due to the Set-Up Factor where it’s a very cloying and obvious set-up for yet another film. They might either take it or leave it I personally hope they leave it because it’s too obvious a set-up (hint: Everybody Loves Raymond meets Meet the Fockers).

Despite all these peccadilloes sticking in my craw it was consistently funny throughout even if unoriginal and for whatever it may be worth I had very low expectations coming in and they were exceeded.

It’s a funny little film if you just don’t think about it too much as clearly I have.

6/10

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Review- Tron: Legacy

Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy (Disney)

It would be best to lead with what works with this film, which is easier to enumerate than what does not. What does work, at least a majority of the time is the visual effects, the score is kind of cool too. This film is a visual effects artists’ playground but simultaneously the enemy of narrative. You should have seen it coming as few and far between are the positive reviews that lead with “The effects were so great.” However, as impressively striking as some of the visual sequences are some are bothersome also.

Those that are bothersome are mainly the computer-generated Jeff Bridges. Granted that in the first sequence they do a good job of camouflaging the CG-ness of the younger version of Bridges but having to look at a CG Bridges under the guise of Clu is very annoying after an extended period of time.

The issues for the story, which faintly flits about behind a computer generated masquerade, begin almost from the minute that answers start being provided. The mystery of “how did Sam (Garrett Hedlund) get here, why is his father still here and why can’t he leave?” is intriguing enough until you start to get answers.

The problem with the answers is how they are written. It’s as if the screenwriters mistook being confusing for sounding smart. As a matter of fact there’s a ten minute stretch of the film wherein none of Jeff Bridges’ lines are entirely coherent.  

There’s nothing wrong with a veil of confusion being thrown over a subject matter and the film either doesn’t try to answer the questions or does it best to answer them. This film does neither. It’s neither the kind of film that relishes ambiguity of meaning like some of Bergman’s work or tells an involved narrative but explains everything painstakingly like Inception. It just sort of sits there and you stare at it because it’s there and you don’t know why you stare at it but you just do. Which is saying something, that is that it’s not boring but it is most definitely insipid.

Moving on you glean whatever you glean from half-truths and gorilla dust, to quote the late great Phil Hartman, the basic plot is that Bridges’ character created an alter-ego when he was less wise than he is now and his megalomaniacal tendencies lead Clu to rule The Grid, this video game world, with an iron fist. And then? The stakes never seem that high because Kevin (Bridges) is reticent to leave at first even though it’s quite clear how it can be done. Furthermore, there’s little incentive for us to get emotionally involved because the laser light show has to start as soon as possible and therefore the bond and the heartbreak of the separation of father and son are never really firmly entrenched except in a very superficial way.

This is the epitome of a “Hit Me Movie” in the worst kind of way. You end up bathing in slick imagery and when it’s done you don’t feel cleansed or refreshed on the contrary you feel dirty.

2/10