The In-Laws (2003)
review by Zach B.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Suggestive Humor, Language, Some Drug References and Action Violence)
Running Time: 98 minutes
Starring: Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks, Robin Tunney, Ryan Reynolds and Candice Bergen
Screenplay by: Nat
Mauldin and Ed Solomon
Directed by: Andrew Fleming
Studio: Warner Bros.
Retail Price: $27.95
Features: Audio Commentary with Director Andrew Fleming, Gag Reel, Additional and Alternate Scenes, Multiple Takes with Albert Brooks, Theatrical Trailers
Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections (26 Scenes)
Released: October 7th, 2003
It seems that Hollywood has run out of fresh ideas. Movie studios are always looking to make profits, but in the past few years, there have been barely any groundbreaking films. Sure, some studios take risks, but it can be argued that they're not moving forward creatively. Not helping matters is the concept of remaking films. While now and then we'd see a remake or two, it seems the studios have gone crazy with them and they're all over the place in this day and age. Honestly now, is there a purpose? While different writers and directors may have their own takes on stories and create something out of their own visions, remakes will always be compared to the original - and nearly all the time they won't be as good.
The term "remake" has certainly evolved in the past decade. But now, the correct word seems to be "reimagining." What happens when you "reimagine" a film? Basically you take the original concept, make it contemporary, change the names of the characters and plot settings - all while still trying to retain the basic idea - and poof! You have a movie that SEEMS original. Trust me folks, it is not. Do fan bases of the original really want to see what they love re-done? Do studios really think that remakes err-reimaginings can be successful and create franchises? It's all questionable, but if you think back at recent remakes, there aren't many that were commercial and/or critical successes.
It's quite questionable why Warner Brothers decided to remake the 1979 comedy classic "The In-Laws." As far as I'm concerned, there was nothing wrong with the original and it was quite amusing. 1979 may not seem that long ago, but to Hollywood, a quarter of a century probably estimates to about ten-thousand years (maybe more). Believe it or not, there are plenty who remember - and still enjoy - the Alan Arkin-Peter Falk version. But when you have a while new age of technology, big stars and a bigger budget - I assume you can make something funny out of it. Right? Well, in my opinion, not really.
In this update, Jerry Peyser (Albert Brooks) is a podiatrist who enjoys the ordinary and predictable, as he prefers things being planned out and is not into the whole risk-taking thing. His daughter Melissa (Lindsay Sloane) is marrying the son (Ryan Reynolds) of Steve Tobias (Michael Douglas). Tobias, a copier salesman, is the exact opposie of Peyser as he always takes risks in the face of danger and tends to not always be prepared when it comes to the matters of his family.
However, shortly before the wedding of their children, Jerry and Steve finally come together for the first time and it's not long before it is revealed that Steve is actually a CIA operative who deals with international arms dealers. Through a series of mishaps, Jerry accompanies Steve on his latest mission and that's where all sorts of hilarity and mayhem ensue - not to mention the wedding of their children where Steve's double life catches up with him for all to see. Of course, throughout the movie, Jerry and Steve are a mismatched pair who don't get along (your usual comedic foil) but ended up appreciating the other's lifestyle as it ends up helping complement themselves and their families. With so much at stake, what do you think is going to happen?
This version, even the original, falls into a typical "buddy comedy" genre. You have two people who are polar opposites, but then of course come together and save the day. But the original "The In-Laws" put a nice spin on things, and a lot of it still holds up very well today. This new version is mediocre at best.
Personally, I think something REALLY GOOD could have been done with this remake given the talent involved. There's certainly a lot of potential given the concept and who's in the movie, but it doesn't quite come together. As I implied earlier, it is quite predictable but there's nothing gut-busting or truly original about it - right from the start it's clear where things are heading. I'm sure if more effort was put into the screenplay, and if Nat Mauldin and Ed Solomon didn't go for the tiresome and standard, there could have been a lot more laughs and interesting elements to the movie. Other than Brooks, most of the comedy comes out to be big contrived pieces (the climax at sea) or stale jokes that we've seen in some form before and never become really funny (you know you're in trouble if a lot of the laughs are supposed to center around a homosexual terrorist). Alas, the movies turn out to be a somewhat familiar, standard comedy that's meant to appeal to general audiences. It's not daring and it isn't aiming for smart laughs. But then again, isn't that people and executives want, especially for a summer comedy?
Yes it's a movie, but you definitely need to take big leaps of faith when it comes to the film's narrative. The story stretches itself out so much and all over the place, and it never really ties itself back in. There is certainly a lot tacked on, but maybe funnier than the comedy within the movie is just how ludicrous things get. Not that you're supposed to take this film very seriously, but the CIA plot is quite passable and used strictly as a set-up. The characters are not complex, nor are they supposed to be, but it's hard to buy into the relationship between Brooks and Douglas. Somehow they do bond during the course of the film, even if they barely get to know one another on a personal level - it's just about their respective jobs and insults. If you don't build things between the characters, and if you can't buy into their relationship which is supposed to drive the movie, how is the whole thing supposed to work?
Andrew Fleming, an underrated director in my opinion, makes the most of what he has but he can't quite pull this movie off. There are decent bits of comedy, but Fleming is all over the place here. Other than the film's crazy narrative, the man doesn't add the right amount of tension between the respective offspring of the two leads. Fleming is also a victim of overdosing on schmaltz and cheese: the family relationships are hammered in continuously and it gets annoying. Yes, we understand that some of these people are insensitive. That's it right from the start. How much dialogue and dwelling do we need concerning that?
If there is one saving grace to this movie, if not the only, it is Albert Brooks. I have been a big fan of his acting and comedy for years, and he perfectly fits the bill as Peyser. Brooks gets nearly all the laughs in the movie, and why shouldn't he? His mannerisms and neurotic attitude is quite entertaining here, and he certainly delivers the funniest and best lines. Brooks also gets to show off some of physical comedy, and while this is not the funniest or best he's been in, a lot of credit should go to him. He gives off the genuinely enjoyable moments, and knowing Brooks' style, I bet there was some improvisation going on during a lot of his scenes.
Brooks actually has great, natural chemistry with Michael Douglas. Douglas has lost some of his star power in recent years, but he's very likable in this movie - it's just a shame there wasn't anything concrete or truly interesting when it comes to the relationship he has with Brooks. The supporting cast, such as Robin Tunney, Ryan Reynolds and the whiney Lindsay Sloane are fine. But most disappointing are the scenes with Murphy Brown herself, Candince Bergen. Bergen's character, the ex-wife of Douglas' character, is incredibly one-note. Bergen plays the role quite well though, and it's a shame she's made out to be such a useless character. There's a laugh or two for her, but there could have been so much more time devoted to her and a lot of rich comic material. Instead, Bergen spends a lot of her time bashing how bad of a husband Douglas' character was.
In the end, the 2003 version of "The In-Laws" comes across as a good-natured comedy that is ultimately pointless. There's a pretty familiar tone and atmosphere to it, but there is really nothing memorable about the film (other than Albert Brooks' performance) and that is disappointing since there could have been much more to this remake. It turns out to be a fluffy ride you may consider taking for mindless entertainment, but that doesn't mean it's truly enjoyable. Stick with the original.
The remake of "The In-Laws" is getting two DVD releases: one for full screen lovers (blech) and one for those who appreciate widescreen. This widescreen version, presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is decent but overall disappointing. The transfer has strong fleshtones, fine details and excellent color saturation, but the image is mainly hazy and somewhat grainy. The transfer does not pop off the screen at all, and while the colors are good, it all could look a bit more vibrant. The transfer also has its share of shimmering, noise and edge halos which is not always pretty. And to top it off, there are blemishes, scratches, dirt pieces and the like (which aren't pretty either). The flaws detract from the image and can be distracting, but it's not too terrible and things could have definitely been much worse.
The English 5.1 Dolby Digital track is quite nice, as it features excellent dynamics and strong fidelity that really put you within the film's more action-packed moments. The film actually has a whole lot of surrounds that are robust and that are rather aggressive, and really do bring a lot of punches to the speakers - the track is surprisingly discrete and powerful. Subwoofer use is very strong, and the track definitely comes to life during the action-oriented scenes (such as the car chases, the action on boat toward the end and gunfire at the start of the film, among other things). Dialogue is crisp and easy to hear, while the music in the movie - be it the nice score or the songs - bring some flavor to the speakers (the music is definitely well mixed). Also, the 5.1 track is well balanced, as nothing overpowers anything else - this is definitely good, since at times, there is a decent amount of action on screen when characters are talking. It's not exactly a reference quality mix, but it sure did impress me as it is one of the better 5.1 tracks I've heard lately - and one of the best I've heard for a comedy in a long time. Also included on the DVD is a 5.1 mix in French, as well as subtitles in French, English and Spanish and English closed captions.
There's a few supplements to be had here, most of which are pretty enjoyable. The Audio Commentary with Director Andrew Fleming is actually pretty delightful - he's seem to be a generally nice guy and actually cracks a few genuine jokes. Fleming is pretty insightful in how he talks about his vision for the movie and what he wanted to do - he talks a lot about his artistic choices and his approach to making the movie a bit different from the usual comedies. Sad to say, this is definitely one of those commentaries that is better than the actual film since it's pretty entertaining and informative. Fleming is a talented filmmaker though, so here's hoping his next film turns out better.
There's a near four minute Gag Reel in non-anamorphic widescreen that offers a few chuckles, but much better are the Multiple Takes with Albert Brooks. I'm a big Brooks fan, and the two sections this feature is divided into ("The Car Ride" and "The Airplane Bathroom") definitely shows off his talents - comedically and acting-wise. Each lasts about four minutes, so do definitely view them if you check out this DVD. Brooks has always been a fabulous actor, and the more of him the better (or so I say).
There are some Additional and Alternate Scenes: two are deleted ("Phone Call with Angela" and "Muffins") and one is an alternate ("Angela's Surprise"). They're in non-anamorphic widescreen (but in good quality) and pretty short, and none of them add anything to the film at all. They're good for a watch... once. Finally, there are Theatrical Trailers for the 1979 original movie and then this very remake. Both are in amamorphic widescreen.
"The In-Laws" was a remake with potential (if not a bit pointless), and if it were not for the wonderful comedic talents of Albert Brooks, then this film would be much worse. The film flopped badly over the summer of 2003 (though on the plus side for Brooks, "Finding Nemo" grossed 15 times the amount this movie did), but perhaps it'll find some life on DVD. The supplements are decent, the 5.1 mix is pretty nice and the transfer is pretty strong. If you're interested and want a few laughs then you might want to rent it, but for those who want to purchase it should only be die-hard fans of the film.