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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The In-Laws (2003)
The In-Laws (2003)
Warner Bros. // PG-13 // October 7, 2003
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted September 25, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:


Based upon a 1979 Alan Arkin and Peter Falk vehicle, this is one of those comfortable vehicles where the two leads simply do the kind of thing they've done many a time before. It's professional, it's well-paced, it's suitably silly, but one can imagine it being a little better than it is. I'm not even sure a director is needed, but the moderately reliable Andrew Fleming ("Craft") plays traffic cop to several highly talented individuals here.

Jerry (Albert Brooks) is a well-regarded Chicago podiatrist whose only daughter (Lindsay Slone) is about to get married to the son (Ryan Reynolds of "Van Wilder") of Steven Tobias (Michael Douglas). Jerry's mild-mannered and neurotic, while Steven happens to be an undercover CIA agent. I've never seen the original picture, but the screenwriters obviously know that Douglas and Brooks are the key element of the picture - despite it all being about a wedding, the focus is more on Jerry and Steve's adventures regarding missing submarines and other international intrigue.

Obviously, the material isn't up to the level of either Brooks or Douglas, but they seem to be having a great time playing off one another. The two even elevate such weak gags as the fact that Jerry carries a fanny pack around and that Steven's flying around on what may or may not be Barbara Streisand's plane. Brooks even makes something out of the nothing gag that his character's been set up by Steven as an international arms dealer named "Fat Cobra". Subtler touches are just as amusing - the film's choice of 70's-era tunes plays off the comedy superbly.

Although the focus is clearly on Brooks and Douglas, there are some decent supporting efforts. Although her role doesn't add up to much, Robin Tunney is fun as Steven's sidekick, who doesn't exactly take a liking to Jerry. Candace Bergen is also fun in a small role as Steven's enlightenment-seeking ex-wife. Ryan Reynolds, whose timing is usually remarkably good, is hardly given a chance to do anything.

Overall, this is pleasant, lightweight fare that pulls a few good laughs, generated from the successful pairing of Brooks and Douglas. It's entertaining, but it also doesn't leave much of an impression, aside from the fact that it could have likely been a bit better had the material been through a couple more rounds of rewrites.


The DVD

VIDEO: "In-Laws" is presented by Warner Brothers in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is an exceptional transfer that only has a few minor faults. Sharpness and detail are wonderful; the picture maintains a level of clarity and definition that's very pleasing and "film like". Even in low-light/dark conditions, the picture maintains a solid amount of visual information.

If anything is keeping the picture from looking flawless, it's the occasional hint of edge enhancement in a couple of scenes. Other than that, nothing takes away from the image - no compression artifacts are spotted and no print flaws are seen. Colors remained vibrant and bright throughout.

SOUND: "In-Laws" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 by Warner Brothers. The film's opening action sequence has a surprising amount of surround activity, with surround effects zipping from the rear speakers. After that, things calm down considerably, but there's still a jet or car going through the listening space on occasion. As per usual, composer Klaus Badelt provides an inspired score, while the 70's tunes on the soundtrack also work wonderfully against the comedy. Dialogue remained clear and clean throughout.

EXTRAS:

Commentary: This is a commentary from director Andrew Fleming. The director provides a fairly enjoyable track, discussing some of the details of working out the comedy scenes and trying to figure out how best to play both major and subtle, throwaway comedy bits. There's also discussion of how Fleming tried to construct the film's few action scenes, which was difficult coming from a background of teen girl movies ("Dick", "The Craft"). There's some good insights here, but there's also a few slow moments, plot narration and moments of silence. Still, worth a listen for those who enjoyed the picture.

Gag Reel: A so-so 3-1/2 minute gag reel, mostly composed of outtakes from the final big scene.

Also: Alternate takes of Brooks for the "Airplane Bathroom" and "Car Ride" scenes; a total of three additional/alternate scenes and trailers for both the original "In-Laws" and this new version.

Final Thoughts: The pairing of Brooks and Douglas generates some laughs on its own, but the material can be hit-and-miss at times. Still, this is an amusing light comedy that's worthy of a rental look, or a purchase for fans. Warner Brothers has provided a DVD with excellent video, fine sound and a few solid supplements.

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