‘Meet the Fockers’

This could have been one of those sequels that tries desperately to capitalize on the unexpected success of the original movie – in this case, “Meet the Parents,” which was a huge hit in 2000. So it’s an unexpected pleasure to report that “Fockers” is an improvement on “Parents” – whose jokes dragged on too long – thanks largely to the presence of Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand, who play Ben Stiller’s oversexed parents. It’s easy to forget that Streisand can be funny; here, she and Hoffman look like they’re having such a blast together, it’s impossible not to laugh along with them. But “Meet the Fockers” is still laden with the same obligatory toilet humor as its predecessor, as Greg Focker (Stiller) introduces his mother and father to the uptight, WASPy parents (Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner) of his fiancee, Pam (Teri Polo). Rated: PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and a brief drug reference. Running time: 114 minutes. Rating: 2 1/2 out of 4 stars.

– Christy Lemire, AP movie critic

James L. Brooks’ culture-clash comic drama features career performances from Tea Leoni and Adam Sandler, along with a sparkling U.S. debut for Spanish actress Paz Vega and a sharp supporting role for Cloris Leachman.

Vega plays a Mexican housekeeper who finds herself in a contest of wills with her neurotically overbearing but self-loathing employer (Leoni) over the conflicting manner in which they try to raise their respective daughters.

The film rises above a rather forced scenario to present a rich, warm view of family ties, both strengthening and decaying. Writer-director Brooks’ understated dialogue packs simple but pointed observations about self-regard and interpersonal relationships. Rated: PG-13 for some sexual content and brief language. Running time: 131 minutes. Rating: 3 1/2 out of 4 stars.

– David Germain, AP movie writer
‘The Aviator’

Martin Scorsese’s latest extravaganza is visually astounding, constantly dazzling and frequently thrilling. Every detail is perfect, as you’d imagine from a director who’s as famous for perfectionism as the subject of the film, the eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes.

Strong performances abound, from star Leonardo DiCaprio to Cate Blanchett as Hughes’ legendary love Katharine Hepburn to Alan Alda as a scheming senator. But similar to Scorsese’s last collaboration with DiCaprio, the 2002 behemoth “Gangs of New York,” it’s ultimately about the spectacle.

The director seems more interested in aesthetics at the expense of substance, and John Logan’s script doesn’t delve deeply enough into Hughes’ psychology. Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual content, nudity, language and a crash sequence. Running time: 166 minutes. Rating: 3 out of 4 stars.

– Christy Lemire, AP movie critic
‘Fat Albert’

This mostly live-action update of Bill Cosby’s Saturday morning cartoon series is a hokey, insipid, outdated mess that even the most nostalgic of parents and the most gullible of kids will have trouble embracing. The real-life incarnations of Albert and his pals are grating, with none of the goofy charm of their cartoon forebears.

With his lumpy costume as the title character, Kenan Thompson looks less like the portly ghetto kid and more like what he is – a guy in a fat suit. The trivial plot has Albert and company crawling through a TV set into the real world to help a lonely teen (Kyla Pratt). Executive producer and co-writer Cosby and director Joel Zwick deliver little more than a collection of bad comedy sketches. Rated: PG for momentary language. Running time: 93 minutes. Rating: 1 1/2 out of 4 stars.

– David Germain, AP movie writer

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