Cinema Signal:

"The In-Laws"
the DVD of the 1979 version

. "The In-Laws"

The advantage of a remake in 2003 is in punching up the comedy potential of a 1979 original with digital techniques and a more current take on action-adventure-family material. Judging from some of the critical response, "The In-Laws" is taking punches rather than delivering them. Fortunately for me, however, I fell into the non-critical mode of enjoying it as a lighthearted entertainment deriving from its lampooning mix of genres.

The thought of a marriage bringing together two families, with the father of the groom (Michael Douglas as Steve Tobias), a deep undercover CIA agent (Peter Falk in the original) deeply involved in countering an international smuggling ring, has the makings of a unique approach to comedy. Give it the deadpan style of Albert Brooks as the other father (Alan Arkin served in the original), Dr. Jerry Peyser, podiatrist), roped into the high speed, death-defying shenanigans that are Tobias's everyday exploits and you have an Albert Brooks comedy and a Michael Douglas picture like none other in their collective repertoires.

Tobias, with not-quite trusty sidekick Angela (very sexy Robin Tunney), is playing the James Bond satire card to the hilt in trying to prevent sociopathic king-pin Jean-Pierre Thibodoux (sashaying David Suchet of "Poirot" fame) from acquiring a rogue submarine for his smuggling operation. Something like $170 million is involved in its purchase.

You'd think that Tobias's son Mark's (Ryan Reynolds) wedding to Jerry's daughter Melissa (Lindsay Sloane) might put a crimp in his ability to deal with the spies and assassins on his back, but you'd be wrong. To Tobias, there's no such thing as a challenge he can't cooly meet, including the unlikely prospect of bringing the reticent podiatrist along with him (on Barbara Steisand's private jet!; On his escape parachute from a Chicago high-rise!) for a meet with the slimy Thibodoux, passing Jerry off as "Fat Snake" a famed and dreaded killer high on Thibodoux's admiration list.

The primary thread of humor lacing this comedy thriller is Brook's patented understatement in the face of outrageously over the top situations and characters. When the sexually repressed Thibodoux comes out to make moves on his recalcitrant Fat Snake, Dr. Jerry implores him with, "Don't rape me."

Wedding plans are disrupted throughout as the FBI comes into the scene with corny Keystone Komics pursuits of our two heroes. Candice Bergen adds a note of colorful bitchiness as Tobias's estranged wife and mother of the bride. A tip of the hat to the James Bond series comes up in the soundtrack with the Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die" theme, composed for that movie and used here, one must assume, with permission.

Director Andrew Fleming ("Dick", "The Craft") keeps the action moving apace and hits all the necessary notes for a consistent style that will play well to its intended audience. My advice here is: Don't listen to the critics. Get into the antic, sometimes silly mode of it, and let the belly laughs come.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Albert Brooks and Michael Douglas
A high-speed romp into the unlikely

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