rating: 2Though nobody really needed a sequel to 2000's smash hit Meet the Parents, 2005's Meet the Fockers at least found in Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand two fun, quirky personalities to play fiddle. The best they can manage in Little Fockers is two mild-mannered children and a slew of wasted star cameos. Thus, it's little surprise that series director Jay Roach wanted nothing to do with a film that is hardly outright dreadful, though instead something ultimately more frustrating; it is utterly lazy, and a crass example of studio cynicism at its worst. Gaylord "Greg" Focker (Ben Stiller) and his wife, Pam (Teri Polo) are now settled down with two five-year-old twins, Henry and Samantha. Meanwhile, Pam's freakishly paranoid, retired CIA agent father Jack (Robert De Niro) suffers a crisis of mortality after a heart scare, and proceeds to ensure that Greg is ready to become the head of the family dynasty when the time requires. However, his eagerness turns to overzealousness, as he comes to believe that Greg may have become bored of his daughter since the birth of their children, and is therefore conducting an extra-marrital affair with the absurdly named pharmaceutical rep, Andi Garcia (Jessica Alba). It may be partly owed to the fact that a 90-minute reminder that Robert De Niro is going to die someday is probably not something most people want to hear, but Little Fockers is an abject failure precisely because it is the most perfunctory of sequels, offering little reason for its own existence and reeking of the same desperation that plagued the universally derided Look Who's Talking Now (though Fockers has yet to milk the talking animal sub-genre). What you get here for your dollar is the most mild of family comedies, peppered with occasional bouts of projectile vomiting and scatological gags, though ultimately ado about very little, with everything returning comfortably to the status quo by film's end. Very obviously a calculated move by all involved, the third film should have provided adequate closure - because, let's face it, they were pushing it with two films - but it never comes. Instead, with the hope that the picture does solid business (it probably will), the film ends on a curiously transitory note, implying yet even more fun and frolicks to come as a real Hail Mary Pass of a dramatic move is fielded out in the final scene. That talents like De Niro and Stiller would sign off on such a turgid and bone idle attempt to part families with their Christmas cash is stultifying; the premise is certainly workable enough, yet the script milks well-trodden characters to death and rehashes unfortunate miscommunications we've seen in dozens of comedies of embarassment by now... Coasting aside, perhaps Little Fockers' bigger crime is how savagely squandered the sizeable supporting players are; Harvey Keitel waltzes in and out of the picture as a cowboy builder, while Laura Dern just about acquits herself as the headmistress of a New Age school, yet the heart and soul of the previous film, Hoffman and Streisand, are practically relegated to cameo appearances here. More time is instead devoted to Jessica Alba's character, and though the sight of her prancing around in imagination-curtailing underwear has its plusses, it is at the expense of having to deal with one of the year's most annoying comic sidekicks. The majority of its flaws could have been forgiven had the ending been nailed, but of course, there is no sense of finality or closure to what transpires here. Jack suspects Greg of having cheated on his wife, and in the viewer's mind, a lightbulb may suddenly blink - how galling would it be for Jack to dust off the old lie detector and put Greg through the wringer one last time for our amusement? Apparently the thought didn't pop into the heads of the scribes - who in fact have written all three films - and instead everything is tied up with one incredibly lame line of dialogue. It's all resolutely inoffensive stuff, and the cast are charming, but the staggering level of anger roused by how phoned in this film is makes it difficult to enjoy. Little Fockers was released in cinema's today.