The In-Laws

CIA agent Michael Douglas tries to save the world - and his son’s wedding - in this action-comedy remake

Director: Andrew Fleming

Writers: Nat Mauldin and Ed Solomon, based on a screenplay by Andrew Bergman

Starring: Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks, Robin Tunney, Ryan Reynolds, Candice Bergen


With films like The Game, Falling Down and Traffic, Michael Douglas has made some interesting and surprisingly edgy career moves for a mainstream movie star.

Making The In-Laws, unfortunately, is not one of his wiser decisions.

Douglas plays Steve Tobias, a secret agent, who, in the run-up to his son’s wedding, must try to balance the demands of his job – saving the world from evildoers, basically - with those of his family.

The film opens with Tobias rushing back from an action-packed Prague rendez-vous with Russian gangsters to have dinner at his future in-laws’ Chicago home. (The Prague scenes were actually filmed in the Canadian town of Cambridge, Ontario, oddly enough.)

It’s a promising premise for a comedy and is, in fact, a remake of a successful 1979 film starring Peter “Columbo” Falk and Alan Arkin.

In the new version, directed by Andrew “The Craft” Fleming, Douglas is paired with Albert Brooks, who plays mild-mannered foot doctor Jerry Peyser, the father of Tobias’s son’s fiancée.

Through a series of not-particularly-comic misunderstandings, the deeply suburban Peyser is drawn into Tobias’s cloak-and-dagger world. Despite his protests, Peyser becomes embroiled in Tobias’s attempts to prevent French smuggler Jean-Pierre Thibodoux (David “Hercule Poirot” Suchet) getting his hands on an untraceable Russian nuclear sub.

As Peyser gets to grips with Tobias’s world, the CIA man, in true Hollywood fashion, learns a thing or two about becoming a better father from the podiatrist, and manages to save his son’s wedding from the brink of disaster.

The pairing of two actors as talented as Douglas and Brooks means that The In-Laws isn’t entirely without laughs - a scene onboard Barbra Streisand’s private jet is worth a chuckle or two, for instance - but as a comedy duo they never really click.

They’re also given precious little to work with by a screenplay that gets increasingly ludicrous with every passing scene.

Compared to Suchet, a distinguished British actor who has to ham it up horribly as the camp-as-tents Thibodoux, Douglas and Brooks get off lightly. Candice “Murphy Brown” Bergen, meanwhile, fares little better as Tobias’s embittered ex-wife.

On paper, this blend of national security and “work-life balance” issues must’ve seemed like a good bet to hook a 40+ baby boomer audience, but the producers seem to have given more thought to target marketing than to actually making a good film.

The end result is a comedy-thriller that isn’t particularly funny and isn’t particularly thrilling, but does have a nice cameo appearance by KC and the Sunshine Band.

PTV Rating: 2 out of 5

Czech Premiere: February 12, 2004
Czech Title: Dokud nas smrt nerozdeli
Runtime: 95 minutes
Number of Prints in Czech Cinemas: 18 (all in English with Czech subtitles)

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