Nice Try
Both “Season Of The Witch” and “Little Fockers” are January movies for a reason.  They try hard, maybe too hard, and fall short.  But the studios have to put them out there, anyway, because they’ve spent so much on making the products that they have to try to recoup the costs.  Can’t blame them for that.  But there’s a lot not to like about either of these films.
“Season of the Witch” is about two 14th-century Knights of the Crusades, played by Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman (yes, I know, dubious casting), who happily slaughter the infidels, in battle after bloody battle, with nary a scratch on them.  Their fearless leader, of course, is continually spouting grating pietisms about how this is the Lord’s will, and they are fighting the Lord’s own battles, and they are on a holy mission from God, etc., but when they find themselves slaughtering defenseless women and children, our two Knight Skeptics just quit.  Desert.  At the threat of the loss of their immortal souls, of course.  But then they forget that their personal swords bear the special mark of those who have “made the vow,” and when discovered, the Church happily arrests and offers them one more chance, if they will escort a manacled and caged witch (Clair Foy) to her trial.  The Church seems most interested in catching and burning witches, as well, thinking they are the cause of The Black Plague. (Yes, the Church could not look any stupider, and that’s yet another reason this movie is painful to watch, especially for the sincere believer.)  The rest of the movie we’re on this dreary trek through the boggy forest to some distant destination, and things keep going wrong:  the wooden bridge across the chasm is tattered, the wild wolves are attacking, and there are strange apparitions in the fog.  And then we take a real left turn:  it turns out the witch is actually the devil?  And now we embark on an exorcism before the powers of the darkness begin to envelop us all? Whew.  The only really positive thing to say is that they take incredibly seriously the supernatural power of prayer (albeit in a dead language).  After all that casting of haughty priests in the worst light possible, they appear to be given authority over the invisible realms in a way that seems….almost like….an affirmation of faith.  Very strange, indeed.
“Little Fokkers” contains even more awkward moments, some of which are generated by uncomfortable situation humor, but it gets worse:  this all-star cast is just going through the motions.  This movie comes off like a series of bad skits, essentially unrehearsed, as if the gravitas of the veteran participants could somehow carry the puerile jokes.  It’s just plain not funny.  Beleaguered son-in-law Greg (Ben Stiller) is continually hounded by an arrogant, full-of-himself father-in-law (Robert DeNiro), while his caught-in-the-middle wife (Teri Polo) is not-so-secretly idolized by his only friend (Owen Wilson), an almost-foppish rich boy who seems to have little purpose, but shows up, anyway.  Greg’s Mom (Barbra Streisand) is a television sex therapist (awkward) and his Dad (Dustin Hoffman) a retired geezer flying to Spain to learn to tango (silly), and then this woman at work (Jessica Alba) keeps throwing herself at him, which at times sounds tempting, especially when his daughter won’t speak to him (because he says mean things about her grandfather). Yes, it’s a big mess, but they at least have one redeeming moment at the end, where Greg and his wife actually affirm their genuine love for each other, despite all the outside pressures, as if all the trials have made them stronger.  And we’d like to believe that.  And we’d also like to hope they don’t try for yet another sequel.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas