How many of you out there have a hard time dealing with your in-laws? Everyone? I knew it! This is the exact reason why I'm staying single! I don't want to have to fight with my wife over which set of parents I have to spend Christmas with, or who is going to take care of the baby when we leave for Florida on vacation! I'll spend my life eating potato chips in my Yoda Underoos alone watching reruns of The Dating Game, thankyouverymuch. However, if you're one of the millions who are chained to that beast known as family, you may get a kick out the Michael Douglas/Albert Brooks remake The In-Laws now available on DVD care of Warner Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Nebbish podiatrist Jerry Peyser (Albert Brooks, Finding Nemo) is having a bad day. First his veal dinner is ruined because of the tardiness of Steve Tobias (Michael Douglas, It Runs in the Family), the father of the son (Ryan Reynolds, National Lampoon's Van Wilder) Jerry's daughter (Lindsey Sloane, TV's Sabrina, The Teenage Witch) is going to marry. Then he finds Steve assaulting a stranger in a restaurant bathroom with guns and knives. To cap it off Jerry's gets kidnapped by Steve, flown to France in Barbra Streisand's stolen jet plane, and is nearly accosted by a shady international arms dealer (David Suchet, Wing Commander) with homosexual tendencies. As Jerry's daughter's wedding draws near, Steve whisks Jerry off on the adventure of his lifetime. Jerry's life is turned upside down when he's thrown off a skyscraper roof, forced to outrun a missile on a jet ski, and hunted by the FBI. Steve says he's a CIA agent and that there's nothing to worry about. The FBI says otherwise. Who's to be trusted? And will Jerry ever make it back home in time to see his daughter cut the wedding cake? One thing's for certain: In-Laws can be a real pain in the neck!
Who'd have thunk it? Albert Brooks and Michael Douglas together in a buddy movie! It's the team up of the century! It's the comedy duo to end all comedy duos! It's The In-Laws, and if you buy anything I just sold you, we've got a lot to talk about.
There is so much promise in The In-Laws that it's almost hard to watch the final film. The 1979 original, though loved by many, is in this reviewer's opinion no classic—many of the jokes are dated and more than half-baked. And so I can understand why someone thought that film warranted a remake. And with casting like this, who can blame them? Albert Brooks as a nebbish doctor (taking over for Alan Arkin in the original) and Michael Douglas as a flaky CIA operative (replacing Peter Falk) seem like the perfect comedic match up. And yet something went wrong. Something didn't gel. Certainly it isn't Brooks' comedic timing, and Douglas isn't half bad with the occasional zinger either. So what was sunk this ship?
The finger can be pointed squarely at writers Ed Solomon (Levity) and Nat Mauldin's (Doctor Doolittle) screenplay, which runs out of gas at the halfway mark. Many opportunities are missed along the way, not the least of which is an effeminate villain Jean-Pierre Thibodoux (played with too much restraint by David Suchet) who isn't given enough funny things to do.
Albert Brooks is one of the best comedians working in film—I will attest that Mother and Lost in America are two of my favorite comedies, hands down. Yet Brooks' humor, often whiney and cynical, doesn't work as well in the confines of this screenplay—had things been tweaked a bit, The In-Laws could have been a great Brooks vehicle. Instead it finds itself buoyed by too much filler, as when Brooks' daughter (Sloane) preps for her wedding with her fiancé, played by Ryan Reynolds who was given much more to do in the far funnier Van Wilder. Andrew Fleming's (Dick) direction is well meaning but lags because of the mediocre screenplay.
There are requisite supporting characters played by famous faces, like Candice Bergin as Douglas' mentally unbalanced ex-wife. Bergin seems to have channeled Michelle Pfeiffer's character from Married to the Mob and cranked her up six notches. Once '80s relics KC and the Sunshine Band enter the picture, you know the filmmakers have not only hit a low, but also proved they couldn't afford Men At Work's musical talents.
But the real stars are Brooks and Douglas, and on that level I was mildly entertained. Watching the two men interact was enjoyable yet unsatisfying—the script just never gives them enough to do. I did laugh whenever Brooks and Suchet interacted (the flighty Jean-Pierre assumes they're in love), and Brooks occasionally throws off one of his dryly acidic trademark comments. But the sad fact is that when it's all said and done, The In-Laws is a family affair that's far more dysfunctional than it is fun.
The In-Laws is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Your whole family, including grandma and cousin Jimmy, will enjoy how this transfer turned out. I was pleasantly surprised with how good this picture is. The colors are all solidly defined without any bleeding into the images. A small amount of edge enhancement poked its head up once in a while, though it was nothing major. Black levels appear solid without any gray tinting. The In-Laws won't win any awards but his transfer should do the trick.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English and French. I was pleasantly surprised with this sound mix—there are a generous number of surround sounds and directional effects throughout both the front and rear speakers. Many scenes involving Douglas in an airplane and the two fathers racing toward a submarine on a jet ski (don't ask, just see the film) feature some great surround moments. Overall, the mix is free of any excessive hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Warner Brothers has given The In-Laws a second chance on DVD, and we all know what that means: extra features! The meatiest extra feature on this disc is a commentary track by director Andrew Fleming, who starts off the commentary telling us how much it annoys him when folks talk during a movie, yet it's apparently what he's supposed to be doing. Fleming appears to be a chatty, genial guy who has a lot to say about the screenplay, characters, and production. This won't go down in history as the greatest commentary track ever, though fans will most likely enjoy the info dished by Fleming. Next up are a few deleted scenes of Albert Brooks performing multiple takes for a specific scene, as well as a gag reel of the characters flubbing their lines or just acting goofy. None of these is very funny. Finally there is a theatrical trailer for the film, as well as a bonus trailer for the original 1979 version of The In-Laws.
So much potential and so much squandered. Any movie starring Albert Brooks is at the very least watchable, even if The In-Laws ranks only slightly above The Muse. Fans of the original film will be sorely disappointed at this remake. Warner's work on this disc, however, is well above average.
The In-Laws is sentenced to spend a few days ironing out its script differences before returning to the altar.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Commentary Track by Director Andrew Fleming
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