In-Laws, The (1979)

“The son is the acorn — you gotta look at the tree.”

In Laws Poster

Synopsis:
An unassuming New York dentist (Alan Arkin) finds his life uprooted when the father (Peter Falk) of the boy (Michael Lembeck) his daughter (Penny Peyser) is about to marry enlists his help in an undercover operation.

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Review:
This hilariously gonzo comedy-adventure — directed by Arthur Hiller and based on a screenplay by Andrew Bergman (best known for scripting Blazing Saddles) — features Peter Falk and Alan Arkin as an unlikely, hysterically mismatched yet ultimately synergistic undercover duo. Both Falk and Arkin play on their strengths as (respectively) a suave operator and an indignantly befuddled everyman, brought together through their children’s upcoming nuptials, then taken on the wildest of adventures, eventually ending up on nebulously intimate terms with a crazed South American dictator (Richard Libertini). In some ways, the less said about this wildly serpentine cult favorite, the better — watch and enjoy!

Note: This film was remade in 2003 by Albert Brooks, though it’s widely acknowledged as the lesser of the two versions.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Peter Falk as Vince Ricardo
    In Laws Falk
  • Alan Arkin as Sheldon Kornpett
    In Laws Arkin
  • Richard Libertini as General Garcia
    In Laws Libertini
  • A frequently hilarious screenplay: “I’ll tell you, the benefits are fantastic. The trick is not to get killed; that’s really the key to the benefits program.”
    In Laws Serpentine

Must See?
Yes, as a cult comedy favorite.

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One Response to “In-Laws, The (1979)”

  1. A once-must, for the premise and the performances.

    On the DVD commentary, which features Falk and Arkin, it’s revealed that writer Bergman was essentially hired to write a screenplay for the two actors, to more or less cash-in on Arkin’s success with ‘Freebie and the Bean’ (which Arkin made with James Caan, though he wasn’t crazy about that script).

    For his part, Bergman states he wrote ‘The In-Laws’ with very little idea of where he was going from one minute to the next – except that he had to have the two men *at* each other throughout.

    In that. Bergman has succeeded – and the two actors have wonderful comic chemistry together.

    Apparently this is a beloved film for many and many have seen it many, many times. Personally, I don’t think it’s quite that memorable, to merit that many repeat viewings. But it is consistently entertaining throughout and at least two sequences had me in genuine hysterics (when Arkin is being instructed – in Chinese – re: in-flight evacuation instructions; when Libertini reveals that he has a little friend who is his own ‘talking’ hand with a face on it).

    The two leads definitely make me crack up just by watching their expressions and reactions to each other. Such a workable duo at work here.

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