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The In-Laws (2003)
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Review Date: May 09, 2003
Director: Andrew Fleming
Writer: Ed Solomon, Nat Mauldin
Producers: Elie Samaha, Bill Gerber...
Actors:
Michael Douglas as Steve Tobias
Albert Brooks as Jerry Peyser
Ryan Reynolds as Mark Tobias
Plot:
A young woman is about to marry the love of her life, but before she does, her parents are to meet his father, who according to her husband-to-be...is a Xerox salesman. Well, it doesn't take long for her straight-laced dad to realize that not only is his counterpart not a printer man, but that he may just be a loony rogue CIA agent who is conducting a covert arms operation over the same weekend that his son is to wed. Plenty of family bickering ensues...
Critique:
From the looks of this film's trailer and recently released Douglas bomb IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY, I was expecting an excruciating movie-watching experience with little laughs, embarrassing showings from two actors who I've greatly respected in the past (Douglas and Brooks) and an inane plot which simply would not work. But color me impressed as I actually did laugh quite a bit through this movie, appreciated both Douglas and Brooks even more (nice chemistry) and even enjoyed the film's over-the-top, but somehow believable, screenplay. Yeah, I don't quite believe it myself but...I had a decent time watching THE IN-LAWS. It's basically an adult version of SPY KIDS mangled into the possible sequel idea of MEET THE PARENTS (in which the in-laws are presented to one another), and even though the story is completely blown out of proportions and trips to France to meet an arms dealer are intermingled with a wedding rehearsal dinner on that very evening in Chicago, I "went with it" and enjoyed the film for what it was trying to accomplish, which was to offer the audience a fun, easy-going, fluffy night at the movies. The film's soundtrack is also one of its more attractive parts, with plenty of snappy tunes to keep things light (I was singing "Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head" for the rest of my evening), as well as its breakneck pace, which bolts you right into the underworld proceedings from scene one (most of the film focuses on the "spy" angle more than the "wedding" one) and keeps things buzzing until the final act.

Which brings me to my only major complaint about the film, which is its final third which simply could not keep up with its funnier, more original, first two sections. You can actually feel the energy deflate by that point and the crappy blue screen utilized during the Douglas/Brooks parachute sequence is a perfect example of just that (special effects are not this film's strong suit). Now while some jokes did still work in the end, things ultimately started going downhill after Candice Bergen was introduced late in the game, playing yet another one of her "bitch" characters (yawn). But what kept me truly tuned in for most of the way was the palpable on-screen chemistry and humor created by both Douglas and Brooks. Their first meeting is a particularly satisfying scene, especially for Douglas who showboats his buoyant interpersonal skills, while Brooks plays his typical straight (neurotic) man as solid as ever. You gotta love this guy! Unfortunately, the rest of the cast isn't as memorable, particularly the two lesser developed characters playing the "loving couple" about to marry, but the story is really more about the "parents" anyway (just like real weddings) so while some secondary characters don't really work (one of the bride's goofy friends), some do and that makes the entire package that much more enjoyable (the French effeminate arms dealer was amusing). And while the film certainly doesn't completely succeed on the whole, it does feature enough humorous and over-the-top situations to recommend to anyone looking to invest an hour and a half into fluffy entertainment. Don't take it all too seriously and you should have a decent time.
(c) 2017 Berge Garabedian
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