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IN-LAWS, THE (2003)

As Mark (Ryan Reynolds), the son of deep cover CIA operative Steve Tobias (Michael Douglas) prepares to marry Melissa Peyser (Lindsay Sloane), the Peyser family is dragged into the unpredictable life of a secret agent. Melissa’s pedantic and conservative podiatrist father (Albert Brooks) is flung into a series of adventures as Steve’s unwilling sidekick, in pursuit of Jean-Pierre Thibodoux (David Suchet) a bizarre major international criminal, who is about to buy an old Russian nuclear submarine as a secret transporter of illegal goods. The wedding plans are thus disrupted, as can be expected from the ever-absent father, Steve, who was divorced by his wife (Candice Bergen) years ago. The two fathers make a hapless team as the wedding and the big undercover deal approach, each with its own time-bomb ticking beneath the surface.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It is a savage irony that screenwriter Nat Mauldin is a huge fan of Andrew Bergman’s 1979 original; he even sent Bergman a fan letter. Nat, you should have left it at that; it was probably well written. This is a sorry attempt at reworking Bergman’s idea, who not only had a great script, but a terrific director in Arthur Hiller – that’s the guy who (among other things) directed Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite (1971) with Walter Matthau. In the In Laws 1979 version, everything works to great effect. Here, nothing works. Every idea in the original is either bastardised or discarded. The plot’s excesses hung by the thread of comedic inventiveness. Alan Arkin was a dentist, Brooks is a podiatrist. Arkin played it for real, Brooks plays it like a boffoon. Peter Falk created a beautifully subtle spoof of a character, while Douglas is flat. And some of the adventures were thigh-slapping funny, whereas here they are plain dull. 

This film not only fails to stand up to the comparison, it just fails to stand up. There are a few thin laughs, but even if all the cast didn’t overact (except Ryan Reynolds, poor sod), we don’t buy the characters or the situations, and the script is laboured and turgid, with a silly and schmalzy ending to boot. 

Review by Louise Keller:
Let me declare my interest straight away. The original 1979 film of The In-Laws, starring Peter Falk and Alan Arkin is one of my favourite comedies. It doesn’t matter how many times I watch it, it’s always like the first time. The script is brilliant, the casting perfect and the performances immaculate. So why remake it? Good question. But now, on to this 2003 reworking of Andrew Bergman’s screenplay. 

The premise remains inviting – odd couple pairing as in-laws, and there are some mildly amusing moments. But the characters are not grounded in reality and director Andrew Fleming has totally misjudged the tone. That means that we don’t believe any of it. All the cast overacts and Fleming has to take the blame. Michael Douglas looks as though he’s enjoying himself at times, but his character is just a little too casual, too flip, because we don’t really believe that he is such an eccentric (The role needs someone who is on the edge of insanity. Mel Gibson’s Lethal Weapon character comes to mind.) 

Also, I didn’t warm to Albert Brooks’ podiatrist who gets an anxiety attack watching an airline commerical; he simply irritated me and I wished he would stop whining. Robin Tunney is badly miscast, but I did enjoy Ryan Reynolds’ accepting son and David Suchet as the foot-sore, angst-ridden homophobic but gay crime lord Jean-Pierre is divine. There are a few chuckles and the scene in which Jean-Pierre invites Jerry into the hot tub, wearing nought but a tiny red dental floss swimsuit (believing him to be drug chief Fat Cobra) is rather fun. Oh yes, and I giggled when the FBI searches Steve’s house and tells his wife ‘The place is clean’, to which she replies ‘thank you.’ 

But frankly, there’s little to recommend this very disappointing film. The humour seems more and more forced as it goes along, and by the time the 95 minutes is over, it’s almost a relief. If nothing else, let the release of this very second rate comedy introduce you to the original at the video store.

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Peter Falk and Alan Arkin in the original 1979 version

IN-LAWS, THE (2003) (M)

CAST: Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks, Ryan Reynolds, Lindsay Sloane, Maria Ricossa, Robin Tunney, David Suchet and Candice Bergen

PRODUCER: Bill Gerber, Elie Samaha, Joel Simon, Bill Todman jr

DIRECTOR: Andrew Fleming

SCRIPT: Nat Mauldin, Ed Solomon (based on the original by Andrew Bergman)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alexander Gruszynski

EDITOR: Mia Goldman, (co-editor Heather Persons)

MUSIC: Lalo Schifrin


RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes



VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: January 7, 2004

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