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Review: Kick out 'The In-Laws'

Remake a pale copy of original

By Paul Clinton
CNN Reviewer

The In-Laws
Michael Douglas (right) plays a wacky CIA agent, and Albert Brooks is a neurotic podiatrist, in "The In-Laws."

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(CNN) -- The new remake of the 1979 film "The In-Laws" is a perfect case of an amusing film being turned into mush the second time around.

In the original, Peter Falk and Alan Arkin played the comedy as if they were serious, which made it all the funnier. In the new film, Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks play it very broadly, and you can hear the rimshots after every one-liner.

The jokes -- such as they are -- are updated, but the story stays the same. Brooks plays Jerry Peyser, a neurotic podiatrist (in the first film, Arkin was a dentist) who's afraid of his own shadow. Douglas plays Steve Tobias, a freewheeling deep-cover CIA agent in the middle of an international sting operation involving a nuclear submarine and some very nasty arms dealers.

These two men would never have met except for one little connection. Tobias' son Mark (Ryan Reynolds, best known for his role on the ABC sitcom "Two Guys and a Girl"), and Peyser's daughter Melissa (Lindsay Sloane, best known for her role on the WB sitcom "Sabrina the Teenage Witch"), are engaged. The impending rehearsal dinner and wedding throw the two men together in a series of "madcap" and increasingly improbable situations.

Broad strokes

The In-Laws
Among the people Brooks has to deal with is a sinister smuggler, played by David Suchet.

The two characters are both painted in very broad strokes.

Peyser's the kind of nerdy guy who wears a fanny pack holding a sanitary plastic drinking cup and a couple of cookies in case his blood sugar slumps. Tobias is a wild and crazy guy (you can almost see the arrow going through his head) who steals private jets, jumps off high rise buildings and is involved in death-defying car chases -- and this is all before breakfast. Peyser's mantra is "don't rock the boat"; Tobias' is "I'll improvise."

Needless to say, they're like oil and water, and the yuks just keep on coming.

"The In-Laws" is one of those films where you can tell everyone had a great time making it, but most of the fun was left on the sound stage floor. Certainly, very little of it found its way to the big screen. There are some amusing moments -- including Brooks in a bright red thong -- but overall, the situations and the humor seem forced.

The final product seems like a made-for-TV movie, and you may find yourself waiting -- make that begging -- for a commercial break.

Underdeveloped supporting cast

The In-Laws
Candice Bergen, as Tobias' ex-wife, is accompanied by a Buddhist monk.

Robin Tunney, in a questionable career move, plays Tobias' CIA partner, Angela. Her role as the second banana is blatantly predictable and underdeveloped at the same time.

Candice Bergen -- her mortgage payment must be due -- plays Judy, Tobias' ex-wife, who shows up at the wedding with her own private Buddhist monk. Why? Don't ask. Sometimes it's best to just let dead jokes lie where they fall.

Douglas never feels completely engaged in his role. He doesn't exactly phone it in, but you can hear a faint dial tone. Brooks can be one of the best comedic actors around, but he needs the right material in order to shine, and this isn't it. He spends the entire movie at a single level of hysteria, screaming at the top of his lungs most of the time. At best, he's fitfully funny.

Bottom line: If you've seen the trailer, you've seen the movie. Every funny scene is contained in that promotion. And it only runs 1 minute and 56 seconds.

"The In-Laws" opens nationwide on Friday, May 23, and is rated PG-13. The film's running time is around 94 minutes longer than the trailer.


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