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Dustin Putman

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The In-Laws (2003)
Zero Stars

Directed by Andrew Fleming
Cast: Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks, Ryan Reynolds, Lindsay Sloane, Robin Tunney, Candice Bergen, Maria Ricossa, David Suchet, Emmy Laybourne, A. Russell Andrews
2003 – 95 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for language, violence, and drug references).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, May 11, 2003.

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 individuals 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.
© 2008 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman