Meet The Parents: Little Fockers (12A) **

Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson in Hampstead.

Cinema and TRAILER: Keaton brings the common touch to the Heath in tale of London life

There's not so much a whiff as a stench of desperation about the third chapter in the hugely popular Meet The Parents series, which first graced the big screen 10 years ago.

The promise of box office riches overrides common sense in every ham-fisted frame, leading to preposterous comedic set-ups involving a ceremonial carving knife and a drug to combat erectile dysfunction.

John Hamburg, who co-wrote the screenplays for the first two instalments, seems to have dusted off all of the (wisely) rejected scenes from his earlier drafts and pasted them together with a gossamer thin narrative about patriarchs on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Any sense of joy, which coursed through Meet The Parents and Meet The Fockers, has evaporated, leaving us with characters, who we had come to love, desperately in search of a dramatic purpose.

Most ridiculous of all, Dustin Hoffman is sidelined for almost the entire film because his character has apparently taken a spur of the moment decision to study flamenco in Seville.

Hapless male nurse Gaylord 'Greg' Focker (Ben Stiller) is blissfully in love with his wife Pam (Teri Polo) and his twins, Samantha (Daisy Tahan) and Henry (Colin Baiocchi).

The feisty daughter is giving her father the silent treatment while the boy is becoming fussy about his food.

It's hassle that Greg could do without as he considers a lucrative job offer from pretty drugs rep Andi Garcia (Jessica Alba) and debates sending the little ones to the prestigious Early Human School, run by inspirational headmistress Prudence (Laura Dern).

Pam's father, retired CIA operative Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro), continues to view Greg with suspicion and isn't sure his son-in-law is made of the right material to lead the Byrne clan.

Tensions escalate with the unexpected arrival of old flame Kevin (Owen Wilson), who has Jack eating out of the palm of his hand.

Meanwhile, Jack's wife Dina (Blythe Danner) tries to reinvigorate their staid marriage by taking advice from Greg's mother Roz (Barbra Streisand), who has her own TV show that advises viewers to 'Sexpress Yoursel'.

Little Fockers is a crushing disappointment.

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