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The In-Laws (A Movie Review)

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

The In-Laws

THE IN-LAWS (2003)

Starring Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks, Robin Tunney, Candice Bergen, Lindsey Sloane, Ryan Reynolds, David Suchet, Maria Ricossa, Tamara Gorsky, Russell Andrews, Richard Waugh, Novie Edwards, Tamara Leavitt and Harry Wayne “K.C.” Casey & the Sunshine Band.

Screenplay by Nat Mauldin.

Directed by Andrew Fleming.

Distributed by Warner Brothers Pictures. 96 minutes. Rated PG-13.

The makers of The In-Laws seem to think that if they change the character names and some of the specific plot points, we won’t compare their movie to the 1979 Peter Falk-Alan Arkin comedy classic by the same name that it is (loosely, they swear) based on.

No such luck, guys.

If you are going to remake an acknowledged comic masterpiece that is still widely available on video, then you are going to have to live with the comparisons. That said, the new version of The In-Laws can’t hold a candle to its source. It’s not a horrible movie, mind you, it’s just very average, and when you hear this title you expect a lot more than that. In fact, I feel the original is one of the five funniest films ever.

In the new version, Albert Brooks has some wonderful moments as Dr. Peyser. (Strangely, the new last name for the doctor is the same as the name of the actress who played his daughter in the original. Coincidence? Beats me, but I figured I’d mention it.) His buttoned-down panic as his world slowly comes more and more unraveled is genuinely funny, although his deadpan take on the role loses some of Arkin’s manic energy and panic for the same role.

Michael Douglas is let down by his material, though, precisely because his CIA agent character is not allowed to show the potential danger or moral bankruptcy that has become Douglas’ stock-in-trade. Instead, he is made to be forever cheerful, except for when he is thinking about what a bad parent he has been to his son (Ryan Reynolds of Two Guys & A Girl, who is so bland and slimy that you almost don’t blame Douglas for being out of the picture.)

The only character that actually adds to the new version is Candice Bergen as Douglas’ bitter, new age spouting ex-wife. Bergen is genuinely funny in the role, even though she has been playing variations on this same role for the last several years in Miss Congeniality, Sweet Home Alabama and others.

But otherwise, the movie keeps fumbling the ball by assuming that if it adds bigger stunts it will be funnier. Therefore, instead of having the future in-laws meet and having the doctor take an instant distrust to his daughter’s future father-in-law through hilarious dialogue, it becomes an action set piece with FBI agents, fights in the men’s room, and a strange dish that seemed to be boa constrictor. The sublimely loony banana republic bad guy from the original becomes an extremely homophobic and xenophobic stereotype of a gay French gangster. (Although, I’m sure George W. Bush will be pleased with the portrayal.)

By the time a tidal wave destroys the wedding proceedings, the seams have been showing too long. But, giving the filmmakers what they want, and proceeding as if the new film was a completely original entity, it is a reasonably good comedy, but nothing to write home about. So, there are worse ways to spend your time than seeing the new version of The In-Laws. But, you’d be much better off just renting the original again.  (5/03)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2003  All rights reserved. Posted: June 3, 2003.

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