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The In-Laws (PG-13)
Warner Bros.
Official Site
Director: Andrew Fleming
Producers: David Coatsworth & Andrew Stevens
Written by: Nat Mauldin & Ed Solomon, based on the screenplay The In-Laws by Andrew Bergman
Cast: Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks, Robin Tunney, Ryan Reynolds, Candice Bergen, Lindsay Sloane, David Suchet

Rating: out of 5

Interesting that Hollywood would remake such an unassuming movie. The original The In-Laws was a 1979 caper flick starring Peter Falk and Alan Arkin that barely even registered on the national consciousness, not even bringing in twenty million in its entire run. But someone somewhere somehow talked Warner Bros. studio heads into financing this remake, which places Michael Douglas in the Peter Falk role and Albert Brooks in the Alan Arkin one. Now, Brooks and Arkin, one can see how that fits in a very strange way. But Douglas and Falk? Gordon Gekko taking on a role once played by Columbo? It doesnít seem right.

Until you watch the film. Douglas hasnít let loose like this in a film since the mid-eighties, when he and Kathleen Turner found themselves running from savages and businessmen (six in one hand, half-dozen in the other) in Romancing The Stone and Jewel Of The Nile, and watching him finally lose his trademark scowl and is-he-or-isnít-he evil demeanor adds to the fun in a film that is nothing but.

The In-Laws is probably the first worthwhile distraction film of the year. You donít have to invest much in it. Just sit back and enjoy the interplay between Douglas and Brooks, as the yin and yang fathers of a young engaged couple (Reynolds and Sloane, barely registering as characters but pleasant enough in the scenes they share). Douglas is the groomís father, an international smuggler (Or is he?) who loves his kid almost as much as he loves the job (Yeah, thereís some sappy self-realization late in the film, but what can you expect?). Brooks plays the brideís father, a foot doctor, decidedly Jewish (this is Albert Brooks, after all), who prefers his safe life to anything remotely resembling exciting.

So, yes, this is an odd-couple film, and within that context, the back-and-forth antics between Brooks and Douglas play to the audienceís expectations extremely well. Douglasís character brings out the daredevil in Brooks, and Brooks brings out the softer side of Douglas. Everything goes exactly like the formula dictates, and itís surprisingly entertaining.

What isnít so entertaining is the vein of homophobia running below the filmís surface. Obviously, Hollywood has used gay characters as comic relief for years, so this is really nothing new. The problem in The In-Laws, though, is that the filmmakers try to mask the way theyíre using the gay character, who has his eye on Brooks. The filmmakers seem to be trying to convince the audience that the comedy coming from the situation stems from how Brooks, the neurotic, uptight, Jewish father figure, responds to the advances of the gay character. But it doesnít take much to see that this isnít the case at allówhat weíre supposed to be laughing at are the manís effete mannerisms, his insistence on getting Brooks into a thong (And that isnít a pretty image. Just a warning). We are expected to laugh at the very fact that he is an international smuggler who is gay. Itís offensive, and it detracts from a film that, while not spectacular, is something special: a hackneyed story that still works.

óCole Sowell


hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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