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Andrew Fleming
Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks, Robin Tunney, Ryan Reynolds, Lindsay Sloane, Maria Ricossa
Writing Credits:
Andrew Bergman, Nat Mauldin, Ed Solomon

He's not losing his daughter. He's gaining a madman.

Jerry's (Albert Brooks) perfect life is now a perfect mess. Days before his daughter's wedding, he met Steve (Michael Douglas), the father of the groom. Look on the bright side, Jerry; you're not losing a daughter, you're gaining a madman.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$9.222 million on 2652 screens.
Domestic Gross
$20.440 million.
Rated PG-13

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $27.95
Release Date: 10/7/2003

• Audio Commentary with Director Andrew Fleming
• Additional and Alternate Takes
• Multiple Takes with Albert Brooks
• Gag Reel
• Trailers

Search Titles:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The In-Laws (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 7, 2003)

As demonstrated by the failure of flicks like I-Spy and Last Action Hero, it can be rather tough to pull off action/comedy hybrids. These movies run the risk of serving too many masters and satisfying none. Though more firmly in the comedy genre than those other two, 2003’s The In-Laws also encounters many of the same problems, and that makes it a moderately unsatisfying movie.

At the start of the film, we get an extended action sequence that introduces secret agent Steve Tobias (Michael Douglas) and his partner Angela (Robin Tunney). He works on a hush-hush deal that will culminate the following Sunday. However, that’s the same day as his son Marc’s (Ryan Reynolds) wedding, but Steve figures he can handle both.

We then meet Marc’s fiancée Melissa (Lindsay Sloane) and her family. Melissa’s dad Dr. Jerry Peyser (Albert Brooks) works as a successful podiatrist but we quickly see that he’s very conservative and afraid of change. He also doesn’t like to travel and seems quite uptight, a decided contrast to the outgoing Steve, who pretends to be a copier salesman as his cover. After many delays, Jerry and his wife Katherine (Maria Ricossa) finally meet Steve for dinner. However, Steve turns this into a working engagement as he takes them to a Vietnamese restaurant he uses to meet a client.

This goes poorly, mainly because Jerry comes into the bathroom while Steve fights an enemy. When Steve attempts to fix things with Jerry, it just gets worse, and eventually the FBI nabs the podiatrist because he accidentally ends up with a small canister of radioactive material in his jacket. Steve busts him out and the pair jet to France as part of the case. From there we follow their adventures as they attempt to deal with the feds, some smugglers, and still pull off the wedding.

Boy, that’s an awful lot of plot for one 98-minute comedy, isn’t it? Or is it a lot of plot for one 98-minute action flick? As I earlier alluded, In-Laws tries to pull off both, but it never really satisfies on either account. Director Andrew Fleming tends to favor the action elements, but he shows very little flair for that side of things. Instead, he simply makes those elements loud and aggressive, and they never become interesting or exciting.

Part of the problem stems from the simple absurdity of the whole thing. Admittedly, In-Laws obviously is intended as a fantasy and we shouldn’t really take it seriously. Nonetheless, I expect a certain form of internal logic, and the film frequently violates that pact. Put simply, it makes virtually no sense that Steve takes Jerry along with him on his adventure. This decision only seems like it’d make things worse, and there’s no apparent positive pay-off. Of course, the movie finds good from it as the guys bond and come to appreciate other viewpoints better, but it still seems totally illogical for Steve to do this.

Perhaps if the action paid off in a more satisfying way, I’d not mind this. Unfortunately, the movie seems pretty flat and perfunctory much of the time. I get the feeling Fleming wants to present some lively set pieces but his heart’s just not in it, and that renders the action scenes as free from zest or zing. The comedy also falters as the film moves awkwardly from one side to the other. The two genres never smoothly mesh and each constantly fights the other for dominance.

Neither wins, which makes the movie unsatisfying. Add to that the utter predictability of so many plot elements and The In-Laws never takes flight. With its uninspired characters and situations and lame attempts at humor like a homosexual subplot that involves Steve’s client and the movie seems banal and moderately tedious.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus C+

The In-Laws appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 5:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The picture seemed good overall but showed a few more problems than I’d expect from a brand-new movie.

Sharpness consistently excelled, however. Virtually no examples of softness popped up at any time. The image remained crisp and detailed from start to finish. No concerns with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but I noticed a bit of minor edge enhancement at times. In regard to print flaws, I saw occasional specks and a little grit. The movie also demonstrated some light digital artifacting at times. Oddly, quite a lot of flecks showed up during the end credits.

The In-Laws featured a varied palette that went from stylized to natural settings. For example, many of the spy shots featured cool blues. Overall, the colors seemed well reproduced, though some daytime scenes looked a bit pale, and some interiors came across as a little pinkish. Black levels were deep and tight, and low-light shots seemed clean and appropriately defined. Despite the mix of minor flaws, the general picture quality of the film remained solid.

In addition, The In-Laws featured a fairly active Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. With all the action sequences, it offered a more varied soundfield than one would expect from a generally comedic affair. The forward speakers presented a good sense of atmosphere and place, and elements moved cleanly across the channels. The different effects also seemed accurately located and smoothly integrated. Surround activity seemed nicely involving. A fair amount of split-surround usage occurred, and the rears added a good sense of environment.

Audio quality was mostly fine. Speech always came across as natural and distinctive, and I noticed no problems connected to edginess or intelligibility. Effects came across as dynamic and accurate, and the louder elements presented nicely deep and taut bass. Music mostly worked well, though a few exceptions occurred. For reasons unknown, “Live and Let Die” seemed oddly dull and muddy, and “Get Down Tonight” also sounded a bit dense. (The excellent Ram-era McCartney outtake “A Love For You” presented much stronger audio during the end credits.) Despite this smattering of minor issues, the soundtrack appeared quite satisfying.

On this DVD release of The In-Laws, we find a small mix of supplements. These open with an audio commentary from director Andrew Fleming. He offers a running, screen-specific discussion that seems generally mediocre. Fleming does cover a decent variety of subjects, though he tends to mostly concentrate on locations and sets. He also gets into the movie’s visual design, choosing the music, casting and working with the actors, and some of his own idiosyncrasies, such as his fear of flying and its impact on the production. Fleming presents a self-effacing and wry sense of humor that makes his remarks more entertaining. However, too much of the material seems bland and uninteresting, and more than a few empty spaces pop up throughout the track. Fleming gives us a decent commentary but it doesn’t seem above average.

In the film’s gag reel, we find some of the usual wackiness. The three-minute and 45-second clip shows goofs and nuttiness, though it actually comes across as more useful than most blooper reels. One shot shows Albert Brooks as he works with David Suchet, and that glimpse behind the scenes makes the “gag reel” worth a look.

More material in that vein appears in Multiple Takes with Albert Brooks. This presents two scenes: “The Car Ride” (four minutes) and “The Airplane Bathroom” (4:16). Nothing funny shows up here, but we get to see Brooks improvise and develop different schtick for each take. That makes it a moderately valuable addition to the set.

Next we find three Additional and Alternate Takes. These run a total of three minutes, 10 seconds. Two of the scenes are totally omitted from the final flick, while the third shows an alternate bit from the wedding between Steve and Angela. None of them seem memorable. Finally, the DVD concludes with trailers for this version of The In-Laws as well as the 1979 original.

I never saw that earlier flick, but I can’t imagine it’s less interesting than the remake. Although I never thought that The In-Laws became a genuinely bad movie, it seems like a mess. It pairs two genres that don’t fit snugly together here, and it fails to satisfy in either regard. The DVD presents generally solid picture and sound with a small and only moderately interesting set of extras. For a comedy with similar themes, go for something better like Meet the Parents. For a superior action flick, take about anything. The In-Laws is a bland dud.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.3846 Stars Number of Votes: 13
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