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'The In-Laws'

Albert Brooks has to contend with the thrill-seeking Michael Douglas in "The In-Laws."

Friday, May 23, 2003

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Just whose idea was it to use a K.C. and the Sunshine Band song? Can two blue-eyed parents really have a dark-eyed child? Why is Candice Bergen's hair so big? And just who is that actress playing the wife of Albert Brooks?

 
 
'THE IN-LAWS'

RATING: PG-13 for suggestive humor, language, some drug references and action violence.

STARRING: Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks

DIRECTOR: Andrew Fleming P>

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The mind can drift when you're watching movies, especially a comedy such as "The In-Laws," which feels run-of-the-mill and a bit dated -- even though the story's been transported to the present day, complete with a quip about Homeland Security. It also drops in fanny packs, Deepak Chopra and what appears to be the requisite bachelorette party drink, the Cosmo.

This "In-Laws" is a remake of the 1979 movie starring Peter Falk and Alan Arkin as dramatically different dads brought together by their children's engagement.

This time, the fathers are Brooks as a podiatrist named Jerry Peyser with a fear of planes, heights and any hint of danger and Steve Tobias (Michael Douglas) as a thrill-seeker who may be a rogue CIA agent. Jerry's daughter is marrying Steve's son, and the doctor is fussing over all of the arrangements, while Steve's undercover escapades have kept him from meeting the in-laws.

When they do get together, Steve is on the job and Jerry gets drawn into a scheme involving an impromptu trip to France, the $170 million purchase of a submarine and a ruthless criminal (David Suchet) who takes a liking to the podiatrist. The zaniness keeps encroaching on the nuptials until the two become inextricably linked for laughs. After all, Steve had telegraphed it by predicting, "This wedding is gonna be as normal as butter on mashed potatoes."

In these days of superspies and supersonic stunts, "The In-Laws" is passable but nothing more. The whole wedding theme has been marched down the aisle many times before, although this does offer one wild twist. Which leaves us with the acting and how the mismatched buddies bond over borrowing a superstar's private plane and sharing what looks like snake at a Vietnamese restaurant.

Douglas, most recently on screen in "It Runs in the Family," seems to be having the time of his life, while Brooks does another variation of the sad sack we've come to know and love in such movies as "Broadcast News" and "Mother." They work well together although, as is often the case, I found the quieter moments more interesting than the noisy, zany comedy involving planes and parachutes.

At 58 years old, Douglas is getting a little long in the tooth to play globe-trotting daredevil, but he can still pull it off, given his youthful constitution and attitude. Brooks' line delivery is priceless; it's just a shame he's not given more of the lines that don't sound as if lifted from a TV sitcom with a laugh track.

Bergen, as Douglas' former wife, is little more than a bit player, which is a shame given her track record and the comic energy she brought to such recent comedies as "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Miss Congeniality." Maria Ricossa is Katherine Peyser, Brooks' even more forgettable wife. Playing the betrothed are Ryan Reynolds from "Van Wilder" and Lindsay Sloane from "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" and the short-lived "Grosse Pointe."

The original billed itself as: "The First Certified Crazy Person's Comedy." The remake isn't the last or the best or the craziest. It's just kind of there, occupying a screen in the megaplex that beckons with stronger, more original choices.


Barbara Vancheri can be reached at bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632.

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