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Dan Heller's Movie Review of "The In-Laws"


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Albert Brooks
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What do you get when you put a neurotic Jewish foot doctor from New York together with a CIA agent on a case to bust an arms-smuggling ring? And then have their kids get married? You get Albert Brooks and Michael Douglas as "The In-Laws", a remake of a film by the same name from 1979. Unfortunately, the marriage of these two actors doesn't seem as compatible.

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Michael Douglas/Albert Brooks
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Both movies follow essentially the same plot line: the daughter of a conservative and traditional family man from New York is about to marry the son of a CIA agent who happens to be in the midst of cracking a huge international case wide open. When things go inadvertently awry, the fun begins as the doctor gets caught up in the scheme and almost blows the whole thing, and gets himself and his soon-to-be in-law killed at the same time.

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Michael Douglas
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What made the original movie work is precisely what failed about the current version: the movie is not supposed to be about the "sting", it's supposed to be about the relationship between the neurotic in-laws. In the case of the doctor, Albert Brooks is perfectly cast as the doctor/father, blundering and fearful exactly as you expect him to be, as he faces everything from near death to being in a hot-tub with a dangerous (and gay) arms dealer. He eventually learns to ease his anxiety and deal with his situation, just like his predecessor, Alan Arkin, did in the original film.

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David Souchet
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The problem with the film has more to do with Michael Douglas' role. Unlike his predecessor, Peter Falk, Douglas is far too polished. The role of Steve Tobias is supposed to be that of a quirky, unassuming and somewhat innocent but lovable guy, much the character Falk made famous in his series, "Columbo." With Tobias, you never really know whether his stories are true, or if he can be trusted, or even if he knows what he's doing. This would drive anyone nuts if they were in a tight situation with this guy, and Falk was made for this role. Douglas, however, is quite the contrary. He's not nuts enough - he can't be; that's just not him. He's too good looking. In the original film, you never really knew if Tobias was a CIA agent till quite close to the end of the film, whereas the new film makes only one half-hearted attempt at hiding the fact, but it doesn't really fool anyone. Because of how poorly Douglas was cast, and how too many quirky aspects of the film were replaced by high-tech effects and more modern and threatening villains, there is no chemistry between anyone to carry the movie.

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Albert Brooks
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On the positive side, "The In-Laws" certainly had its share of comedic lines, and I found myself laughing far more often than the movie deserved to be laughed at. But that's me. I love Albert Brooks, and I make no apologies or excuses for being easily amused. That said, I left the film disappointed. In fact, so much so, that I rented the original film again, just to enjoy it one more time. Not that I want to turn this into a video review, but it should be noted that the original 1979 version is well-worth seeing, especially if you were a Columbo fan.

You can look up this movie in the Internet Movie Database here: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0314786.

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