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‘Little Fockers’ tries to overcome the hat-trick curse

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When it comes to digs or jokes about ‘Little Fockers,’ the fish pretty much shoot themselves in a barrel. The third movie in a franchise that began with a funny first film (‘Meet the Parents’) and delivered a reasonably amusing second installment (‘Meet the Fockers’) now may be straining the premise.

Long before the below trailer hit the Web yesterday, there had been plenty of questions. The franchise has kept its stars but lost its director/seer in Jay Roach (he went off to make ‘Dinner for Schmucks’), leaving it in the less accomplished hands of Paul Weitz (‘In Good Company’). The release date was pushed back from the summer. And there were the reports of reshoots that had ‘Meet the Fockers’ costar Dustin Hoffman rushed into the movie at the last moment.

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Besides, didn’t a thousand TV shows already tell us what we needed to know about long-running comedies that add kids 10 years in?

The trailer doesn’t offer much more to be encouraged about. There’s the problem of Ben Stiller’s Gaylord Focker character seeming successful and more confident here, living in a yuppie-ish home, with little of his jittery ingenue from the first two films. There’s the fact that at least some of the action takes place around Thanksgiving, even though the movie comes out three days before Christmas (most holiday films usually do it the other way). And is that really a Cialis sight gag?

Third movies can rise both creatively and commercially, but it doesn’t happen often; ‘Bourne Ultimatum’ is the exception to the ‘Spider-Man 3’ rule. Third comedies usually aren’t even attempted. This PG-13 franchise also seems a bit of a tweener, when comedies seem to be polarizing as either raunchfests or clean family fun.

Then again, at least filmmakers got the ‘Little Fockers’ title past the studio.

--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

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