Little Fockers (PG-13) ½

Review Date: December 22nd, 2010

If no one kills themselves while watching Little Fockers this weekend, it will be a Christmas miracle. Sure, there have been some bad films so far this year, but none will make you long for the merciful touch of the Grim Reaper upon your shoulder like the latest entrant in the Meet the Parents saga. And this is coming from someone who actually enjoys the original film (and reluctantly tolerates the second).

Looking on the sunny side of things, however, at least Little Fockers is the best alien invasion film of 2010. I mean, that is the narrative here, right? Pod people have taken over the lives of the Fockers and the Byrnes, replacing their once moderately charming attempts at bumbling-based comedy with some kind of extra-terrestrial anti-comedy designed to test the patience of normal human beings. That's the only rational defense of the film I can think of. Surely no one who actually lives on planet Earth thinks that you can fashion a complete motion picture — particularly one starring Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, Owen Wilson, Harvey Keitel, Laura Dern and, yes, even, Jessica Alba — out of nothing but a chain that interlinks the most face-palming, no-one-acts-like-that misunderstandings possible with repeated fart, barf and penis humor.

Grandpa Jack (De Niro) is getting to be an old man, so he tells son-in-law Gaylord Focker that he needs to take over as the Godfocker. This piece of information is the alien code word that turns the previously-normal Gaylord into Pod Person Gaylord. He instantly begins to act out of character, deciding for no clear reason that his twin five-year olds, who have a fast-approaching birthday, must now attend a prestigious private school that is way out of the family's budget. Pod Gaylord then decides to give in to pharmaceutical representative Jessica Alba's flirting and become a spokesperson for an erectile dysfunction drug.

Meanwhile, Owen Wilson has re-entered the lives of the Fockers as Pod Kevin, a world-travelling, philosophically-confused twit whom everyone worships for no apparent reason. Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman are back as well as Roz and Bernie Focker, with the former now being the host of a talk show about sex toys and the latter suffering from a bout of ''manopause'' that finds him in Spain learning to be a World Class flamenco dancer. How does the re-integration of these three characters pay off exactly? Well, Grandpa Jack wants to convince his daughter and happily married mother of his two grandchildren to divorce Pod Gaylord and marry Pod Kevin. Pod Roz's free-spirited theories about sex result in Pod Grandpa Jack getting an erection for five-and-a-half hours (and don't think for a second you'll be spared the image of an erect penis in Robert De Niro's pants). As for Bernie Focker ... well, that one's tricky. As near as I can tell, the only reason his character is conceived as being obsessed with the flamenco is so he can later inexplicably dance with a jiggly, bra-clad Jessica Alba for approximately six seconds.

I'd apologize for that being a poor summary of the premise of Little Fockers, but it's sadly an incredibly accurate one. There's no plot here. It's just a collection of scenes that ineptly fit together solely because they have the same people in them. And if this material is what passes for a feature film, I cannot even fathom what the deleted scenes on the DVD will look like.

The crime here isn't even the bad (and often childish) jokes, it's that all of the adults involved appear to have suddenly forgotten how to tell jokes at all. Words just tumble out of the actors' mouths, never, ever finding purchase with the audience. But that's okay, because as soon as one gag arrives stillborn, director Paul Weitz (who is taking over for previous series auteur Jay Roach) and screenwriters John Hamburg and Larry Stuckey will break their necks trying to turn their attention to the next bit of hilarity. And the most astounding thing — the clincher that will make you want to stick a gun in your mouth — is that despite running from scene-to-scene as fast as possible, Little Fockers feels like it's never going to end. You may think that it'll be passable, light entertainment at just 98 minutes, but you dangerously forget that these are 98 minutes of alien anti-comedy, which equate to over 9000 minutes of human failure. rated this film 1/2 star.