When two prospective fathers-in-law meet for the first time on the eve of their children's nuptials, wedding cake literally hits the fan.
The In-Laws is a remake of Arthur Hiller's 1979 wedding comedy about a mild-mannered dentist who, while preparing for his daughter's nuptials, clashes with the groom's father, a government agent. The premise of Warner Bros.' 21st century version is pretty similar: Michael Douglas is Steve Tobias, a ''daredevil CIA operative,'' and Albert Brooks is Dr. Jerry Peyser, an uptight podiatrist. The foot doctor's daughter and bride-to-be, Melissa (Lindsay Sloane), and her fiancé, Marc (Ryan Reynolds), arrange a dinner for the prospective fathers-in-law to meet, but things quickly get off to a rocky start. Turns out Steve is in the middle of a deep, deep, deep cover investigation involving an undetectable submarine and his work follows him everywhere he goes--including dinner with the in-laws. When Jerry walks in on Steve fighting with a gunman in the restaurant washroom, he becomes an unwilling participant in the operative's messy mission. Unfortunately, this unimaginative comedy, with its two mismatched in-laws fumbling from one clownish adventure to the next, fails to generate any laugh-out-loud moments.
Although veteran actor Michael Douglas (It Runs in the Family) is well cast as this seasoned CIA operative, the script focuses too much on his zany antics and not enough on his character. Douglas does his best as the over-the-top hyper Steve--so much so that you almost wish someone would slip him some Special K. In one scene, his own son Marc even asks him to tone down the ''salesman'' act, and we really wish he would. Steve's outlandish character should have been balanced with some more personal characteristics in order to make him more likeable. As Steve's opposite, Albert Brooks' (My First Mister) character Jerry is a high-strung doctor who, like all of the characters in this film, suffers from lack of any real depth. He comes across as a doting father in the film's opening sequence but ends up being just a silly sidekick to Steve's character. Working from an uninspired script, these two seasoned actors seem to be bending over backward to get laughs here; sadly, when it's that obvious how hard the actors are trying to be funny, funny is the last thing it is. Candice Bergen has a small role in the film as Jerry's wife, and the actress delivers the film's most redeeming performance.
Director Andrew Fleming's The In-Laws demonstrates that things are not always better the second time around. In the 1979 wedding comedy, Alan Arkin and Peter Falk were fresh and entertaining. In Fleming's version, Douglas and Brooks' slapstick antics come across as lame and uninspired, perhaps because the film is a blueprint of the original rather than a modern update. Sure, there are a few changes; Jerry is a podiatrist instead of a dentist and the children play a slightly more significant role here, but it is not enough to make this story novel again. Moviegoers, for example, have become savvier in the past 20-odd years and a plot revolving around an undetectable Russian submarine reeks of the Cold War era. The best thing about the film is the soundtrack, which features great songs such as Electric Light Orchestra's ''Don't Bring Me Down,'' Paul McCartney's ''Live and Let Die'' and B.J. Thomas' ''Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.'' But the songs blare during various comic interludes (picture Jerry and Steve parachuting off the top of Chicago's John Hancock Center to the tune of Chic's ''Good Times'') in an attempt to make the scenes seem funnier than they actually are.
With its hackneyed, spotty storyline and tired slapstick comedy, Andrew Fleming's The In-Laws is neither funny nor inspiring. You'd be better off renting the original instead.