The In-Laws

2003, Movie, PG-13, 95 mins

Review

IN-LAWS, THE
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Though inspired by the 1979 comedy, screenwriters Nat Mauldin and Ed Solomon wisely opted to take the premise — chaos ensues when two fathers-in-law from completely different walks of life meet — and run with it, rather than attempting a scene-for-scene remake. They jettisoned some of the best-known bits — the neglected dental patient, the evasive-action gag that made "Serpentine, Shelley, serpentine!" a catchphrase and an anecdote involving babies abducted by giant tse-tse flies — and added new jokes, more action and thongs. Divorced, James Bond-style CIA agent Steve Tobias (Michael Douglas) is good at saving the world but bad at family functions; he's missed pretty much every major milestone in the life of his son, Mark (Ryan Reynolds). Determined to do right at dinner with his son's future in-laws, detail-obsessed podiatrist Jerry Peyser (Albert Brooks) and his wife, Katherine (Maria Ricossa), Steve — who's supposed to be a Xerox salesman — is inevitably delayed by his current mission and makes a poor first impression by arriving late. Mark's eager bride-to-be, Melissa (Lindsay Sloane), attempts to make the best of things, but the situation degenerates further when Jerry happens upon Steve going mano a mano with a gunman in the restaurant bathroom. Steve visits Jerry at work, but inadvertently entangles the panic-prone foot doctor in his current assignment, so Steve and his partner, Angela (Robin Tunney), drug the fanny-pack sporting doctor and drag him to France in a misguided attempt to keep him out of harm's way. As the wedding day nears, the fathers must make certain that nothing — not even keeping a Russian submarine out of the hands of lecherous international arms dealer Jean-Pierre Thibodoux (David Suchet) — overshadows their children's big day. Predictability reigns supreme in this frantic farce, but Douglas and Brooks are perfectly cast as polar opposites; Brooks does neurotic as few actors can. The scene in the aviophobic Jerry awakens to find himself mid-air in Barbra Streisand's personal jet is a keeper, but it's Brooks's chemistry with Suchet that generates the film's laugh-out-loud moments. The supporting cast does an admirable job of making small parts memorable; the sole exception is Ricossa, whose turn as the mother-of-the-bride is nearly non-existent and utterly forgettable. Fans of the original may be disheartened by this glossier, action-packed version, but the brisker pacing and showy shoot-'em-up scenes are exactly what will appeal to the film's target audience. leave a comment --Angel Cohn

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