On the red carpet Wednesday for the media premiere of "Little Fockers," the latest movie in the "Meet the Parents" comedy franchise, the ensemble cast seemed certain of the film's success and cited their secret weapon: Robert De Niro.
Teri Polo, who plays De Niro's daughter, Pam, gushed, "I will never ever be as funny as [De Niro] because comedy is a gift and [he] has it in spades. I'm happy to be the straight man. I have no desire to be funny."
Although sequels are standard in Hollywood, with recent examples coming from franchises such as Spiderman and Harry Potter, follow-up films can be risky. Not only can they be costly, but critics seem to critique them more harshly.
The entire ensemble cast of De Niro, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Dustin Hoffman, Polo, Barbara Streisand and Blythe Danner reunited for "Little Fockers," the third film in a franchise that so far has grossed more than $800 million at the worldwide box office.
"Little Fockers" opens in theaters nationwide on Dec. 22.
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De Niro and Stiller reprise their roles as Jack Byrnes and Greg Focker, a father-and-son-in-law who fight incessantly but somehow endure an onslaught of painfully awkward experiences.
In "Meet the Parents," the first movie in the franchise, De Niro gave Stiller a lie detector test.
In "Meet the Fockers," De Niro injected Stiller with truth serum to get him to admit publicly to fathering a love child.
This time, in "Little Fockers," in what is possibly the most uncomfortable moment in the history of the franchise, De Niro secretly takes a sample of an erectile dysfunction drug that Stiller got at work from a pharmaceutical rep. When Stiller discovers that it's left De Niro with lasting side effects, De Niro insists that Stiller give him appropriate medical attention. Slapstick and screaming ensue.
At the premiere Wednesday in Manhattan, surrounded by popular comedians such as Stiller and Wilson, the "Little Fockers" cast and crew focused on De Niro's comedic talent.
Jay Roach, who directed "Meet the Parents" and "Meet the Fockers," and produced "Little Fockers," added, "[De Niro's] been pretty good at [comedy] for a long time. People forget that he was in 'Midnight Run' and 'Analyze This.' He's kind of amazing. ... He obviously has an incredible dramatic gift but ... just to play that look, just that piercing, scrutinizing, can-see-right-through-you look, is what always seems funniest."
Blythe Danner, who plays De Niro's wife, Dina, delighted in De Niro's laugh during the filming of "Little Fockers."
"[His laugh] is my favorite thing about Bobby De Niro," Danner told ABCNews.com. "I just cannot wait for him to break up. It's the funniest thing. He makes not a noise and doesn't snort or anything. He just ... shakes. It's delightful."
Ben Stiller admitted that it was difficult to keep a straight face on set, but agreed and added, "When you get Bob to laugh ... that's exciting."
Some Stars at the Premiere Were All Business
Jessica Alba, who joins the cast in "Little Fockers" as Andi Garcia, a pharmaceutical rep who works with Stiller and attempts to seduce him, spent little time with the media on the red carpet.
When asked about her kissing scene with Stiller, Alba stormed off with her husband, Cash Warren, by her side and shouted sarcastically, "That was really appropriate in front of my husband!"
Dustin Hoffman, who plays Stiller's dad, Bernie, in the movie, was shuffled past the media by his publicists.
In the film, Hoffman travels to Spain to follow his passion for traditional flamenco dancing. When asked if he could recreate some of his sultry dance moves from the film, Hoffman shrugged and said, "I don't dance."