Friday, December 7, 2012
IN-LAWS, THE (1979)
(June 1979, U.S.)
At the tender age of 12 during the Summer of 1979, there were only two cinematic events on my mind; the continuing stories of Rocky Balboa (ROCKY II) and James Bond (MOONRAKER). Oh, sure, there other films in betweeen, here and there, that turned me on, too, like HAIR, BREAKING AWAY and LOVE AT FIRST BITE (my sorry-ass-over-protective-excuses-for-parents wouldn't let me see ALIEN!), but at the time, as far as I was concerned, Arthur Hiller's THE IN-LAWS was just another adult comedy that was getting a lot of TV commercial promo time. Thankfully, adulthood and VHS tapes got me caught up on a thing or two because THE IN-LAWS is one of the funniest "buddy" movies I've ever seen and the team of Peter Falk and Alan Arkin play off of each other perfectly.
So we have two men here - Sheldon "Shelly" Kornpett (Arkin), an unexciting, mild-mannered New York City dentist (hey, is it me, or is dentistry considered the most B-O-O-R-I-N-G profession in entertainment and in life, just slightly above certified public accountant??) and Vince Ricardo (Falk), a slightly eccentric, very over-the-top CIA operative whose son and daughter are going to be married in just a few days. You can imagine that when dentist meets CIA man, dentist is (naturally!) going to get a little freaked out by the prospect of his daughter marrying into this kind of family (and you'd be right!). Vince innocently asks Shelly for help with a five-minute errand: breaking into Vince's office safe. Shelly reluctantly agrees and after retrieving a mysterious black bag containing stolen U.S. Mint engravings from Vince's office, he's surprised by two armed hit men who also want that bag, and Shelly's life! Chase and shootout in the streets of New York City follows and Vince explains to the frightened Shelly exactly what he does for a living, the mission he's undertaking and the heavy financial consequences that will result if they should fail. Yes, I said THEY, because before Shelly knows it, he's involved in his future in-law's high-stakes caper, his life constantly in danger. Sounds heavy-handed, yes, but when you concentrate long and hard on Arkin's fear and attitude as everything around him unfolds, you realize why you're laughing so much. Who can possibly keep a straight face watching his deadpan facial expression while Honduras' lovably, yet insane General Garcia (played by Richard Libertini) goes into his hand painted face of "Senor Pepe" routine. Definitely the funniest moment of the entire film!
As a buddy picture of two completely different men, the story and the laughs are admitedly cliche and predictable, but you almost don't care because you're laughing so much. This is a film that (happily!) relies more on humorous dialogue and chemistry rather than too much slapstick. What slapstick there is, is accompanied by good dialogue like Shelly's, "Please God, don't let me die on West 31st Street!" and Vince's, "Serpentine, Shelly. Serpentine!". What I've also always found particularly amusing in THE IN-LAWS is that no matter what sort of life and death predicament Vince gets Shelly into, he's always overly apologetic for his actions and heavily appreciative of Shelly's good-sportedness about the whole thing. Sort of like, "Oh man, I know I keep fucking up your life, but I appreciate you good attitute about it." Think about it. It's funny.
Just a quick word on the 2003 remake of this film. In Spring 2003, I saw the original teaser trailer for this with Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks when it was still going under the working title of THE WEDDING PARTY. Anyway, I'm watching the scenerio unfold and I'm thinking that there's something awfully familiar about all this. But like I said, it was called THE WEDDING PARTY, so I didn't exactly put two and two together. Shortly before it was released, Warner Brothers apparently decided to call a spade a space and admit they'd made a flat-out remake and called it what it was. Regardless, my wife dragged me to it and even though I can freely admit that Brooks and Douglas fed off each other fairly well, an unneccesary remake is still an UNNECESSARY REMAKE! When will Hollywood finally understand this???
Favorite line or dialogue:
Vince Ricardo (while driving very fast and recklessly): "You know, I'm such a great driver, it's incomprehensible that they took my license away."