The In-laws

on May 23, 2003 by Sheri Linden
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For those who are philosophically opposed to the very notion of a remake of the 1979 comedy gem “The In-Laws,” there may be some consolation in knowing that the new version is only loosely based on the original. Working from the premise of Andrew Bergman's much-loved script, screenwriters Nat Mauldin and Ed Solomon don't attempt to affect its uniquely loopy tone, and while the result may lack the offbeat edge of the film that inspired it, it's a smart, winningly broad comedy that stands on its own. With Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks starring, its appeal likely will skew to older viewers.

At the center of the story are two desperately mismatched men on the eve of their children's wedding, and the globetrotting highjinks that ensue when mild-mannered Chicago podiatrist Jerry (Brooks) is caught up in the death-defying maneuverings of CIA operative Steve (Douglas). The latter lives on the edge of danger with an outrageous insouciance, while Jerry is the kind of guy who keeps Lorna Doones in his fanny pack in case he gets hungry. He's forced to overcome his fear of flying and numerous other phobias when he's dragged along to France, where Steve is posing as a middleman in a nuclear weapons deal with an evil billionaire (David Suchet, hammy and terrific).

Devotees of the '79 film will find nothing to match Peter Falk's performance or the chemistry he and Alan Arkin generated. Douglas and Brooks deliver fine work, but the friction between them feels too safely contained, even as the script cooks up some wonderfully absurd moments for them. In a sign of the times, there's a tacked-on parental-improvement lesson for the workaholic Steve. The family members who got short shrift the first time around are given more screen time here but remain bland and two-dimensional. The exception is Candice Bergen's turn as Steve's ex-wife, a woman who spouts New Age clichés that barely mask the hatred she still feels for him. It's a role and a performance that may be the most incisive update in the material. Starring Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks, Robin Tunney, Ryan Reynolds, David Suchet, Lindsay Sloane, Russell Andrews, Maria Ricossa and Candice Bergen. Directed by Andrew Fleming. Written by Nat Mauldin and Ed Solomon. Produced by Bill Gerber, Elie Samaha, Bill Todman Jr. and Joel Simon. A Warner Bros. release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for suggestive humor, language, some drug references and action violence. Running time: 98 min

Tags: Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks, Robin Tunney, Ryan Reynolds, David Suchet, Lindsay Sloane, Russell Andrews, Maria Ricossa, Candice Bergen, Andrew Fleming, Nat Mauldin, Ed Solomon, Bill Gerber, Elie Samaha, Bill Todman Jr, Joel Simon, Warner Bros, Comedy
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