Well, here's a depressing motion picture, an action-comedy so deadening
in its absence of charm and humor that it has to be seen to be believed.
But heed my very serious warning: do not, under any circumstances,
subject yourself to this monumental waste of time and celluloid. Ever-so-slightly
turning on a faucet and watching the water drip would be time much
better spent than suffering through "The In-Laws."
Loosely based on the 1979 feature of the same name, thankfully unseen
by me and starring Peter Falk and Alan Arkin, "The In-Laws" is a thoroughly
uneasy amalgamation of action movie and comedic farce with little
in the way of even narrative cohesion. To say that it is devoid of
any excitement or laughs would only be overstating by the very nature
that there was a single chuckle elicited from the otherwise wasted
bright performance by Emmy Laybourne (1999's "Superstar"), as a drunken bridesmaid.
With lovebirds Melissa (Lindsay Sloane) and Mark (Ryan Reynolds) preparing
to be married, they naturally want their parents to meet and get acquainted
with each other. Enter Melissa's father, uptight pediatrist Jerry
Peyser (Albert Brooks), and Mark's aloof dad, Steve Tobias (Michael
Douglas). Before they have even had time to have dinner together,
Jerry discovers that Steve is an international spy for the CIA. With
Jerry knowing too much, he unwillingly becomes involved in Steve's
current operation, an attempt to smuggle over $100-million from crooked
arms dealer Jean-Pierre Thibodoux (David Suchet). To say the least,
it increasingly appears that Melissa and Mark's wedding will not be
going off without a few major hitches.
Directed by the usually reliable Andrew Fleming (1999's "Dick"), "The
In-Laws" is a veritable disaster any way you shake a stick at it.
The movie starts off shakily, with a violent chase sequence that feels
terribly out of place, and then devolves into an embarrassing mixture
of amazingly lame jokes that are supposed to make the viewer laugh
and action scenes that wouldn't pass muster in a schlocky, direct-to-video
Jean-Claude Van Damme picture. A stream of stereotypical gay jokes
fly left and right, the desperate source for much of the so-called
comedy as they slam instantly against the pavement and set back the
gay pride movement by about fifty years. The mere plotting of the
premise is even more ill-conceived, if that is at all possible.
In the middle of the commotion is odd couple Jerry and Steve, unpleasant
individual made even more spiteful by being placed together. While
both guys are supposed to mean well, and do love their children, they
are like big babies who don't seem to care about anyone but themselves.
As international spy Steve, Michael Douglas (2003's "It Runs in the
Family") proves that either he is not made for comedy or simply wasn't
given anything funny to work with (I suspect it is both). And as the
tight-collared Jerry, even marvelously talented comedian Albert Brooks
has somehow been rendered laugh-free, without a chance to deliver
any of his usually dry and biting one-liners.
The rest of the cast is left up the stream without a paddle, prancing
in and out of scenes as they mimic kindergarten-drawn stick figures
without any emotional resonance or character depth. As engaged couple
Melissa and Mark, Lindsay Sloane (2000's "Bring It On") and Ryan Reynolds
(2002's "National Lampoon's Van Wilder") are asked to look frazzled
and not much else. They share no chemistry with each other, nor are
they given a chance to, so the question of whether the wedding is
going to occur makes no difference to the viewer. As Steve's bitter
ex-wife, Judy, Candice Bergen (2003's "View from the Top") has even less to do.
The only character with any possible potential is Steve's partner,
Angela, a vivacious and tough young rookie with an obvious crush on
her mentor. Played by the talented Robin Tunney (2000's "Supernova"),
writer-director Andrew Fleming nonsensically betrays her in the climax
with an out-of-left-field twist that would have been utterly enraging
had it not been inevitable. Since Fleming had managed to screw up
every other element of this project, it only made sense for him to
seal the deal with Tunney's Angela.
"The In-Laws" is unredeemable filmmaking, an unfunny, egotistical,
idiotic dead-zone of a movie with nary a glimpse of energy or genuine
heart. It does not care about its characters or its story and, in
response, the viewer is left with nothing to do but seethe at just
how offensively bad what they are watching is. Even the soundtrack,
filled with some otherwise really good classic tunes, is grotesquely
edited into the scenes with no sense of timing or fluidity. How "The
In-Laws" got greenlit is one of this year's most confounding cinematic mysteries.
Copyright © 2003 Dustin Putman