Forget about the effortless gags of 'Meet the Parents', and the just-about-bearable chuckles of follow-up 'Meet the Fockers', and prepare yourself for director Paul Weitz's lazy attempt at milking a few more laughs and strained shenanigans. 'Little Fockers' is a prime example of a franchise that has exhausted its comedy value and proves that, in this case, three is definitely a crowd.

After their wedding on Focker Island, Greg Focker (Stiller) and wife Pam (Polo) return to Chicago to settle down and raise their twins, the troublesome Henry (Baiocchi) and precocious Samantha (Tahan). With their fifth birthdays fast approaching, Pam and Greg are busy arranging an over-the-top party for the two precious munchkins.

Not surprisingly, Greg's plans to make some extra cash, restore the family's new home and find a good school for the kids are interrupted by the presence of Pam's intimidating ex-CIA dad Jack Byrnes (De Niro), who has flown in with his charming wife Dina (Danner) for their grandchildren's big birthday party. After defibrillating himself during a heart attack Jack - who longs for Greg to 'man-up' to his responsibilities - plans to make his goofy son-in-law the family's "Godfocker".

Not only does Greg feel pressure to do his new title justice, but he also has to deal with Andi Garcia (Alba), a gorgeous pharmaceutical rep who hires him to be spokesperson for the erectile dysfunction drug Sustengo. While Greg has the chance of making some mega bucks, his fidelity will also be tested.

More jealously arises when Pam's ex-lover Kevin (Wilson) drops in after his proposal plans to his Russian girlfriend don't go as expected, throwing a few more spanners in the works for the unfortunate Greg.

The entire birthday set-up is an unbelievably weak storyline and is where 'Little Fockers' begins and comes to a drastic conclusion. As for the rest of the plot, just about everything involves silly parodies. There are hassles at the Fockers' new home involving a contractor (Keitel) who doesn't get his work done on time (resulting in a pathetic face-off with the frustrated Jack) and there are also difficulties in trying to get the kids into a private school. Neither of the problems is solved and both should have been chopped from the script.

Although De Niro and Stiller have undeniable on-screen chemistry, they both struggle to produce a memorable showdown. Greg's hippie parents Bernie (Hoffman), who just happens to be studying flamenco in Seville, and Roz (Streisand), whose sexual self-help show is a hit on cable TV, fail to provide any comic relief, and at times it is cringe-worthy watching them. Dern is also completely wasted as the head of the Early Human School, as is Keitel in his role as the not-so handyman.

It is always a bad day in Hollywood when the end credits become the highlight of a film: when Greg's Sustengo speech is remixed into a YouTube song for the closing scene, it is hard not to have a hearty giggle or two.

That aside, there is little else that 'Little Fockers' will do, apart from confirming that 2010 has been a bad year for dysfunctional family comedies. 'When the Grown Ups Meet the Fockers' could more than likely be next year's genius idea.

Laura Delaney