STARRING Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Owen Wilson, Barbra Streisand, Jessica Alba
WRITTEN BY John Hambur, Larry Stuckey
DIRECTED BY Paul Weitz
It's been six Fock-ing long years since we last heard from hapless, neurotic nurse Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and his overbearing father-in-law (Robert De Niro), but producer Jay Roach who directed the franchise's first two films, 2000's Meet the Parents and 2004's Meet the Fockers says it took that long to settle on the perfect script for the third installment. ''We could have thrown it together, but we wanted to make sure we had a good story,'' says Roach, who turned the directing reins for Little Fockers over to Paul Weitz (About a Boy) so he could make this summer's comedy Dinner for Schmucks. ''The question is always: What's the new catalyst? What's going to drive the story this time? It took a while to crack it.''
The movie again centers on a Focker family gathering: a birthday party for the 5-year-old twins of Greg and his wife, Pam (Teri Polo). Greg is struggling with parenthood, while De Niro's retired CIA agent wrestles with his own late-life crisis. ''The movie deals with mortality and passing on the torch,'' says Weitz. ''That doesn't sound particularly hilarious, but I promise you there's comedy in it.'' As a newcomer to the Focker world, Weitz found himself surrounded by an all-star filmmaking brain trust. ''I had the great benefit of having at least five people who had done excellent jobs directing films before: Ben, Bob [De Niro], Barbra Streisand, [screenwriter] John Hamburg, and Jay,'' he says. ''If a ball got through the infield, someone was going to be able to pick it up.''
This installment also brings fresh faces to the franchise: Harvey Keitel plays a contractor working on the Focker house, Laura Dern is the headmistress of the kids' school, and Jessica Alba plays a sexy pharmaceutical representative at Greg's hospital. For Alba, who says she's been looking for more opportunities to do comedy, the prospect of working opposite heavyweights like De Niro and Stiller was rather daunting: ''Was it intimidating? Of course it was!'' she says, laughing. ''But it was also inspiring because they're so brilliant at what they do. My goal every day was just to try to make Ben laugh. If I could make him even chuckle a little bit, I'd think, 'Okay, today was a good day.'''