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What The In-Laws
has going for it are jovial performances by Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks, who clearly
look like theyre having a grand old time. The good news is theyre in almost
every frame of the film. They brighten up whats otherwise a tepid mix of lame jokes
and run-of-the-mill action sequences in this remake of a 1979
film starring Peter Falk and Alan Arkin.
Douglas plays Steve Tobias, a wacky CIA operative (only in the movies!)
who doesnt do the best job separating his home life from some exceedingly violent
travails at work. A typical day for Steve rivals that of a super hero. He escapes speeding
bullets and punches out mysterious bad guys as easy as pie. He also has a young babe
sidekick Angela (Robin Tunney) who complains about not having enough to do because Steve
always steals her thunder. Its easy to agree with the character; except for
supplying just the tiniest morsel of eye candy, theres no apparent plot-related
reason why shes in the movie.
Steves son, Mark (Ryan Reynolds), is engaged to Melissa (Lindsay
Sloane), whose dad Jerry Peyser (Brooks) is a neurotic podiatrist who wears a fanny pack
stocked with emergency supplies (not as funny a bit as the writers believe). Hes
also extremely pleased to be the person in charge of planning all the detailed
arrangements for his daughters big day.
When the young couple tries to get their folks together for pre-wedding
festivities, things go awry. It all starts when Steve suggests they dine at an exotic (and
seedy) Asian restaurant, where a horrified Jerry witnesses Steve in a gunfight with an
enemy agent in the restroom. Despite his protestations, Jerry gets sucked in to
Steves wild and crazy international spy-guy exploits.
But because screenwriters Nat Mauldin and Ed Solomon (who based their
work on the screenplay from the previous film) dont really come up with any
particularly innovative or amusing twists (theres talk of a submarine, arms
smuggling and a menacing woman named Olga), the film, is inert mostly. But the fun
acting by Douglas and Brooks -- and a short but inspired performance by Candice Bergen as
Steves bitter, alternative-lifestyle-seeking ex-wife Judy -- add a tiny spark to
these dull proceedings.
One notably spunky scene has a foreign crime lord in a hot tub with
Brooks, who surprisingly shows a side that audiences havent seen from the comedian
thus far. While avid Brooks and Douglas fans may be mildly amused by The In-Laws,
average moviegoers will likely find the film an experience about as enjoyable as a visit
with real-life in-laws.
- Leslie Katz