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The In-Laws
2003 - PG-13 - 98 Mins.
Director: Andrew Fleming
Producer: Bill Todman Jr., Bill Gerber, Elie Samaha, Joel Simon
Starring: Albert Brooks, Michael Douglas, Ryan Reynolds, Lindsay Sloane, Robin Tunney
Review by: John Ulmer
I attended a screening of "The In-Laws" with a certain amount of hope. I had read all the bad reviews for the film, but often I find these dumb comedies to be quite fun to watch. Coming out of the film, I can say with full confidence that I agree with the critics on this one - it's not dumb, lighthearted, nor fun. It's just stupid, rude and boring - even its short 98 minutes feels like hours.

It's a remake of the 1979 film starring Peter Falk and Alan Arkin. Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks are the leads this time around, but they lack a comedic chemistry - surprising, indeed, since Albert Brooks (who played the campaign volunteer in "Taxi Driver") is a comedian and Michael Douglas is very good at handling lunatic roles ("Falling Down"). But they are lacking a kind of divinely orchestrated lunacy that a film like this should have.

The Brooks character was a dentist in the earlier film, now he's a foot doctor. He has many quirks and phobias about the silliest things - we just know that somehow the Douglas character will cure him. Douglas is a CIA agent deep undercover. The FBI has no idea of this, so they chase him around like a pack of idiots throughout the entire film, always about a step away. Tell me: Why is it that the FBI never seems smart enough to send in more than a few men on foot? Where are the helicopters, the police vehicles surrounding the building? You tell me.

I'm getting ahead of myself. I'll start at the beginning: Brooks' daughter and Douglas' son are getting hitched soon. Brooks and his family still haven't met Douglas, so they arrange a nice at-home dinner. Douglas shows up and instead takes them out to eat at a very Chinese restaurant - which, unbeknownst to them, is his contact point. Once there, Brooks finds out that Douglas is really involved in illegal crimes when he overhears a conversation in a bathroom (isn't that how it always is?). Later he reveals that he is deep undercover in the CIA. So Douglas transports Brooks around the globe to make a deal involving a submarine named Orga.

First they meet up with a French criminal (played by David Suchet, who I once lived a few houses from in Pinner). Suchet (or, I should say, his character) is a gay man with repressed homosexuality. There are scenes with him that are just plain disgusting - including one where he kisses Albert Brooks (I could go another lifetime without seeing that).

After that, the two leads rush back in time to throw a wedding for their kids. Madcap happenings occur, along with double-crossing and submarines and sound-targeting missiles.

A comedy like this is asking for trouble. It's recycled and cliched to the point where one can close their eyes and know what's going to happen next. Albert Brooks has phobias - he'll learn to overcome them. Douglas doesn't spend time with his family - he'll get back his wife and learn to put his job on cruise control. There will be a villain that keeps coming back. There will be a Save the Day scene where our two heroes get to rescue everyone.

The characters are so written - and by this I mean just motions and words on paper - that they never seem to make their own decisions. Brooks supposedly hates Douglas, he wants nothing to do with him, yet all he seems to do the entire time is be with him and follow him around - if this guy really hates him, I'm sure he could find a better way of avoiding him. Then there's the occasional segment when, during a long stretch without any jokes, Brooks will shout, "He gave me a roofy!" (Don't ask.) Comedy misfire fallbacks should not contain the word, "Roofy." Never.

This isn't a light, funny, dumb comedy. It's putrid waste that might just make my list of the worst films of 2003. The movie might be inspired, but before inspiration goes into play one must put some effort into creating likable and three-dimensional characters. Or at least expand funny situations a bit farther than just that. I came out of this movie with a frown. That's a bad sign for a comedy. "The In-Laws" are not relatives I'd want in my family.
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

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