Little Fockers delivers laughs; Open Season 3 disappoints

Cinema reviews: Little Fockers delivers laughs; Open Season 3 disappoints with low quality

Robert De Niro as Jack Byrnes, Owen Wilson as Kevin Rawley, Ben Stiller as Greg Focker and Harvey Keitel in Universal Pictures' Little Fockers.
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Little Fockers
Director: Paul Weitz
Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Owen Wilson, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, Jessica Alba, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand

A third movie about the adventures of Greg "Gaylord" Focker (Ben Stiller) may seem somewhat like overkill, but the opportunity to get such big names all in one film must have been too big for the studios to pass up. This time round Greg is facing the responsibilities of being a father to twins and the pressure of providing for them takes it's toll. Greg subsequently moonlights as a pharmaceutical rep alongside an attractive colleague (Jessica Alba), prompting his controlling ex-CIA father-in-law Jack (Robert De Niro) to believe he is cheating on his daughter Pam (Teri Polo). The plot is slight but provides just enough laughs to get you by, and is really just an excuse to revisit the characters. Humming along nicely, it's a studio comedy through and through, with so many adept comedy talents involved that it's hard not to find at least the odd joke funny. The film has more than its fair share of misfires - Harvey Keitel's baffling appearance as a lazy builder, and Dustin Hoffman's scenes were clearly added at the last minute (after a lengthy dispute with the studio). However, Stiller and an on-form Owen Wilson (returning as Pam's new-age ex Kevin) carry the film between them. A surprise package is Alba, playing the air-head party girl with so much enthusiasm that it almost blots out the memory of her recent terrible performances (almost). In what is surely the last of the series, the director Paul Weitz (stepping in for regular helmer Jay Roach) safely steers us to a conclusion quickly, meaning the tired jokes are recycled out one last time before they outstay their welcome. Not up to the high standards set by the first two films, but without a doubt a funny and diverting holiday comedy.

Open Season 3
Director: Cody Cameron
Starring (voices of): Mike Epps, Joel McHale, Matthew J Munn, Gina Torres.

Who'd have thought the 2006 movie Open Season, which was a moderate success but not exactly a hit, would spawn a second sequel? Open Season 3 sees the entire voice cast return from the second film, as the focus shifts to lovable grizzly bear Boog (voiced by Mike Epps). Tired of life in the forest, he trades places with a lazy circus bear (Matthew J Munn), who tricks him and traps Boog in the circus. It's up to his loyal friend Elliot (Joel McHale) to save him. Anyway you look at it, the film lacks in anything even resembling originality. The jokes, which even in the first film were low-brow, are now downright inane, and the story plods along even given the relatively brisk running time. The support cast have their moments (Gina Torres adds a shred of interest as Boog's love interest) but generally, given the dull story, it reverts to the very base comedy upon which the series has come to rely. Epps and McHale were drafted in for Open Season 2 in the absence of the original lead voices, Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher, who presumably learnt their lesson the first time round. These new leads suck all the life out of the characters, particularly Epps with his passionless monotone, substituting Lawrence's laid-back style for a voice performance that feels very laboured. McHale is all energy as Elliot and while this makes for a slightly more interesting character, he doesn't really have the charm of Kutcher. A tedious and unoriginal film, there's little imagination and even less ingenuity on behalf of the filmmakers. Clearly using a semi-recognised brand to produce needless sequels ad nauseam, the replacement cast and almost laughable animation make for a film that has few to no distinguishing features, other than its obvious low quality.