Tuesday, December 21, 2010

“Movie Review: 'Fockers' runs out of steam and jokes - Sacramento Bee” plus 1 more

“Movie Review: 'Fockers' runs out of steam and jokes - Sacramento Bee” plus 1 more

Movie Review: 'Fockers' runs out of steam and jokes - Sacramento Bee

Posted: 20 Dec 2010 11:52 PM PST

"Little Fockers" is possibly the last and certainly the least among the trio of comedies about the power struggle between a nebbishy male nurse and his menacing, control-freak father-in-law.

It's a desultory, patchwork affair – competently made, comfortably played, but lacking the heart and wit that characterized, in varying degrees, in "Meet the Parents" and "Meet the Fockers." But oddly, this running out of gas seems less about a film series exhausting its supply of jokes than about something more organic and recognizably human.

Gaylord "Greg" Focker (Ben Stiller) is an old married man, now – settled and successful in his career, a father of 5-year-old twins. He's lost his manic panic at dating a scary man's daughter, his eye-bugging rage at being married into a family whose ex-CIA patriarch has everyone under his thumb. And Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro), having had a few mild heart events, has less energy to devote to tormenting the son-in-law.

The title of "Little Fockers" is misleading. It's not about the tiny tykes, but about legacy, genealogy and who takes over that "head of the family" role that Jack has held and held over Greg. The question Jack has for Greg as he preps to move the family (Teri Polo is back as wife Pam) into a renovated house and celebrate his twins' fifth birthday is "Are you ready to be the God Focker?" And the problem is, aside from that line – milked for as many laughs as you'd expect – the whole setup just isn't very funny.

So writers John Hamburg and Larry Stuckey trot out more scenes with Pam's rich and generous, surfing and swinging ex-beau, dully played by Owen Wilson. Greg resents him because his kids call him "Papa Kev." There's a goofy, unfunny goombah contractor (Harvey Keitel), assorted scenes with Greg's TV sex therapist Yenta-mom (Barbra Streisand) and dizzy dad (Dustin Hoffman, trying way too hard).

Jessica Alba shows up as a drug company rep with an eye and an enema for Greg – one funny scene has the ex-nurse drug rep helping Greg administer an enema to a patient, and needing a cigarette afterward. Laura Dern is the hippy-dippy head of the exclusive, over-achieving "The Early Human School." And the kids deliver a few off-color cracks and a little projectile vomiting.

But the engine that drives these movies, the Stiller-De Niro dynamic, sputters on the cheap gas in the tank. The misunderstandings (is Greg cheating on Pam?), the awkward familiarity ("Are you still sexually attracted to my daughter?") and the payoffs lack the pop that director Jay Roach gave them in "Meet the Parents" and "Meet the Fockers." Paul Weitz ("Cirque du Freak," "American Dreamz") takes over as director, and the film shows all the signs of re-shoots and re-edits designed to bring in more characters and perhaps find a few more laughs. Weitz, as he proved in "About a Boy" and "In Good Company," is better at making it real than at making it real funny.


1 1/2 stars

Cast: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Owen Wilson, Barbra Streisand, Dustin Hoffman, Teri Polo

Director: Paul Weitz

Theaters: Century (Folsom, Greenback), Regal (Auburn, Davis, El Dorado Hills, Natomas, Placerville) United Artists Laguna Village

Rating: PG-13 (mature sexual humor throughout, language and some drug content)

97 minutes

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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Movie projector: New 'Narnia' looks solid, 'Tourist' will struggle as Christmas movie season begins - Los Angeles Times

Posted: 09 Dec 2010 02:25 PM PST

DawnTreader It may be another two weeks until the actual holiday, but for the movies that open this weekend, it's all about lasting into Christmas.

The hope for the studios releasing "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" and "The Tourist" is to ride a solid debut to strong results around Christmas, when movie theaters tend to be packed.

But the prospects for that happening are much stronger for "Dawn Treader," the third movie based on C.S. Lewis' classic "Chronicles of Narnia" book series and the first co-financed and released by 20th Century Fox, which took over the franchise from Walt Disney Studios. It should see a good but not great opening weekend of about $40 million in the U.S. and Canada, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

Sony Pictures' thriller "The Tourist," starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, is generating far less interest among potential moviegoers and should debut to a little less than $20 million, a weak start for a big budget movie with well-known stars.

The debut for "Dawn Treader" will likely come in below that of the first "Narnia" movie, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" in December 2005 and its poory received, darker sequel "Prince Caspian" in May 2008. The movies opened at $65.6 milion and $55 million, respectively.

But Fox, which co-financed the $155-million budgeted "Narnia" movie with Walden Media, has more mild initial expectations for its film given the sour taste that "Caspian" left with many fans. Given that "Dawn Treader " is in 3-D and will therefore benefit from premium ticket prices, an opening less than the last two "Narnia" movies would represent a significant drop in actual attendance.

Fox picked up the "Narnia" series after Walden's former partner Disney declined to continue with it following the disappointing performance of "Caspian." Fox made "Dawn Treader" at a much lower cost than "Caspian" and attempted to return to the more family-friendly, Christian-themed roots of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

If fans like the movie, however, "Dawn Treader" could perform well through the end of the year as it will be one of only two family films aimed at young viewers along with "Yogi Bear." In that scenario, it would surpass the $142-million final domestic gross of "Caspian" and approach the $292-million take of "Wardrobe." That would make it a success for Fox and Walden, especially if it performs as well overseas as expected.

Both of the previous two "Narnia" movies grossed significantly more internationally than domestically and "Dawn Treader" should follow that trend. It debuts in most major foreign markets this weekend and should collect more than $60 million overseas, giving it a worldwide opening of more than $100 million.

Tourist "The Tourist" will likely need very strong overseas results to be profitable given its soft prospects domestically. Financed for about $100 million by producer Graham King, the film has so far generated only limited interest among adult women, though recent advertising spots have included more action in an effort to draw men.

Most reviews have been negative, which could harm the movie's prospects among adults. If those who see "The Tourist" this weekend don't like it, weak word of mouth could lead it to fade from theaters before Christmas.

Depp and Jolie are very popular internationally, however, and the film takes place in Europe, giving Sony and King hopes that foreign moviegoers will turn it into a hit. "The Tourist" opens in several overseas markets, including Great Britain, Taiwan and South Korea this weekend.

In limited release, the drama "The Fighter" starring Mark Wahlberg opens at two theaters in Boston, one in Los Angeles and one in New York City. Layoff-related drama "Company Men," starring Ben Affleck and Tommy Lee Jones, debuts this weekend at one theater in Los Angeles and one in New York. An adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" starts at two theaters in Los Angeles, two in New York and one in San Francisco.

All three films are opening now in hopes of receiving attention in the upcoming awards season.

-- Ben Fritz

Top photo: A scene from "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader." Credit: Phil Bray / 20th Century Fox. Bottom photo: Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in "The Tourist." Credit: Sony Pictures.

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