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Overall Rating

Awesome: 15.38%
Worth A Look: 19.23%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 11.54%

2 reviews, 14 user ratings

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In-Laws, The (2003)
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by Erik Childress

"Like Going To The Reception After Skipping The Wedding"
3 stars

One should be embarrassed walking into a remake of The In-Laws without ever having seen the original. At least, thatís what youíre meant to believe from the rabid fans of the Peter Falk/Alan Arkin ďclassicĒ. And itís how I felt when I sat down at the screening with the knowledge that even my parents had seen a movie that I hadnít. Afterwards, I got around to the DVD and , much to my surprise, my initial impression of the 2003 version had not changed for better or for worse. Even more surprising was how the updated version got some things right where the original failed. But like the cries of ďserpentineĒ Iím sure to hear, it also mucks up what the 1979 film had in its favor.

The creators of this version have almost gone out of their way to disassociate themselves from the source. ďItís not a remake. Itís just based on the ideas.Ē Yeah, and they never would have had locomotives if someone hadnít invented the model train first. Reimagine it any way you want, this is not a new Big Fat Greek Wedding nor is it ripping off (the remake) of Meet the Parents. The basic plot is the same, only with more emphasis on the families.

Jerry Peyser (Albert Brooks) is a hyper-phobic pediatrist whose daughter is about the get married. The groomís father has yet to make an experience at the family dinner invitations and Jerry is growing wearisome. When Steve Tobias (Michael Douglas) finally shows up, he treats for exotic Korean dining and gives Jerry an upfront view of his secret dealings in the CIA. With a rush of agents pursuing the possible ďrogueĒ, Jerry is all-but-kidnapped into joining him on his mission to sting a fruity arms dealer (David Suchet).

There are complications in the plot, but nothing overtly crossing over from the broadness of the situations. And thatís how it was in the original. Slightly loopy CIA agent meets nerve-rattled dentist and wackiness ensues. Classic status must have formed somewhere around the chemistry between Falk and Arkin which was pitch-perfect down to the best of silent comedy. It was still a stupid plot and the laughs were often scattered thanks to a stulted direction by Arthur Hiller that never developed the screwball pace needed to ignore providing harsh adjectives to the story.

Thatís where director Andrew Fleming does the material proud. The 2003 In-Laws is quick and frantic and youíre in-and-out of the theater in 95 minutes. But the laughs are scattered here too, and they arenít nearly as strong as Falkís dinner table ďTse-TseĒ story or the hysterical climax with Richard Libertiniís wacko General. Brooks is just right for the role, but all his best laughs sound like they flowed out of his own pen and not that of screenwriters Nat Mauldin (TVís Night Court and Barney Miller) & Ed Solomon (Men In Black). Douglas plays the material the best he can, but his performance canít escape the uninspired jokes and the shadow of Falkís deadpan delivery.

The crux of the plot with Suchet canít match-wits (or scars) with Libertini. Putting a conservative foot guy in fetish territory of a closeted criminal is ripe with comic possibilities on paper, but plays on screen as an extended episode of ďdodge the gay guy.Ē Saddling Douglas with Robin Tunneyís eager partner character is a pointless third wheel provided only as a plot machination. Bringing the family element to the forefront isnít a bad suggestion, but only if you plan to use them as more than a reminder that we still have a wedding to take place. The very funny Ryan Reynolds gets a nice couple of moments, but these characters couldnít be more of a waste until you bring in Candace Bergen to play another unfunny bitchy socialite that sheís done to death recently in Miss Congeniality and Sweet Home Alabama.

Fleming may take the brunt of the heat when this fails to perform at the box office and with critics. Thatís a shame since heís written and directed two of the most underrated comedies of the past decade (Threesome & Dick). A stab at the script himself may have provided him with the hit he could clearly use. The In-Laws will never be as good nor as bad as youíre likely to hear from folks. Itís a middle-of-the-road comedy that would make a pleasant distraction on cable, but not worth spending more than a Sunday afternoon on. The filmís detractors are only going to place more emphasis on what a classic the original is. My suggestion is for them to do a few serpentines themselves. Yes, itís a fun film, at times very funny and worth a little more than a Sunday afternoon. But not much.

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originally posted: 05/24/03 00:55:10
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Tribeca Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/13/17 Anne Selby I'm sitting here writing this while the movie is playing 1 stars
11/19/06 Jack Sommersby Terrific star teamwork and agile direction make this nicely-written remake a pleasure. 4 stars
5/22/06 William Goss Surprisingly amusing, although not without feeling slightly guilty afterward 4 stars
5/22/06 Jeff Anderson An amusing, very funny & likable updating. Douglas & Brooks are great, that's what matters! 4 stars
12/06/05 R.W.Welch Cast is okay but material is not exactly inspired. 3 stars
9/26/05 Ben ALBERT BROOKS is always awesome.Everyone did a great job with what they had to work with. 4 stars
5/30/04 paul gunning good for a laugh 3 stars
2/10/04 Wesley Not going to win any awards, but for pure entertainment it's worth the money, HILARIOUS 4 stars
10/20/03 here I thought this was a GREAT movie and the actors did great also! 5 stars
7/25/03 May Q. Horney Among attempts at doing something different, here's one that actually works! 5 stars
7/13/03 Joe crap 1 stars
6/22/03 Hottie great funny film 5 stars
6/10/03 lazy sloppy movie Douglas and Brooks are charming, but the direction is pedestrian and the writing atrocious. 1 stars
6/05/03 lumjulx I thought it was very funny .. michael douglas definitely delivered a great performance.. 5 stars
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  23-May-2003 (PG-13)



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