The In-Laws
Directed by Andrew Fleming
Written by Andrew Bergman, Nat Mauldin
Starring Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks

 

The In-Laws

There are occasions when a remake of a film will work, in the same way that in the course of our lives we can watch many productions of "King Lear" - both on stage and on film - and not wish to be anywhere other than in the theatre. But what was the reason for remaking the 1979 film "The In-Laws," with Peter Falk and Alan Arkin as fathers whose children are about to be married to each other, except that while Arkin is a na´ve dentist, Falk is a CIA agent who treats Arkin to more death-defying adventures than any dentist should have to deal with in a lifetime?

One possible reason is that Andrew Bergman, who wrote the original (and also the delicious "The Freshman") was evidently available for another go at it. This time it's Albert Brooks, father of the bride, as a podiatrist with issues in dealing with anything above the ankle, and Michael Douglas, father of the groom, as the deep-cover CIA agent. Is it possible to ring comic changes on the original? Well, that wasn't a very good film the first time around, so the chances of this one being better are slim to none, and so it proves to be.

It's three days before the wedding, and the two fathers meet for the first time. For reasons that escape me now, Douglas's character, Steve Tobias, drags Brooks's character, Jerry Peyser, with him to France on Barbra Streisand's private jet, where he will meet with master smuggler Jean-Pierre Thibodoux (David Suchet, and what a comedown from those years on Masterpiece Theatre as Hercule Poirot). In the course of that visit Brooks will share a hot tub with Suchet, who finds himself strangely attracted to the podiatrist. The rest of the film's paper-thin plot has to do with an invisible Russian submarine that's being brought through the Great Lakes to Chicago, at a price of $170 million. Please don't ask me to be more specific; things went by too fast for good note-taking, though it might have been interesting as a sub-plot for Suchet and Brooks to actually have an affair.

At any rate, before the film ends we will have watched Douglas and Brooks leap off the top of the Hancock Tower sharing a parachute, plus five confrontations between Brooks and the FBI, who are under the impression that he is the smuggler, plus a trashed rehearsal dinner, to say nothing of the wedding itself, which does at least finally take place under a huppah on the shore of Lake Michigan with the ceremony conducted by the FBI agent.

Oh, yes, I forgot Candice Bergen as Douglas's ex-wife and mother of the groom. And with all the hithering and thithering there's barely room for the young couple, played by Ryan Reynolds and Lindsay Sloane, who have to spend the film rolling their eyes at their parents. Well, it's a living.