THE IN-LAWS is a well-cast comedy starring Albert Brooks and Michael Douglas. Brooks is Dr. Jerry Peyser, a mild-mannered, slightly neurotic podiatrist (he hates flying, heights, and any sort of change) who obviously just wants to lead a careful, proper, hassle-free life, and help his daughter to have a well-ordered wedding. Enter Michael Douglas. He is Steve Tobias, a tanned, jet-setting, fast-moving, fast-talking man who meets the Peysers after being chased through the Prague by Interpol, diving into a plane with a gorgeous woman and landing precariously on the water.
During their dinner at a Chinese restaurant, Dr. Peyser catches his soon-to-be-in-law working some sort of criminal-looking deal in the men’s room. Tobias’s son Mark, the groom-to-be, also comes into the bathroom and comments, “Oh, an unconscious guy. You must be working, dad.” The son tries to explain away his father to his new bride, Melissa, and her conservative parents. They are not amused.
Mark and Melissa have a discussion about how they should handle the upcoming wedding and the strange mix of parental issues. When Melissa suggests that the wedding should be for them and not their parents, Mark responds, “Oh, sweet, funny, whimsical Melissa. Weddings aren’t for the bride and groom!”
It turns out that Tobias is transporting some sort of nuclear waste product and working with the Russian mob on the purchasing of a submarine for a Frenchman. As the FBI hones in on him, they start tracking the quiet Dr. Peyser as well. Soon the reluctant doctor finds himself unwittingly caught in an adventure taking Barbra Streisand’s private plane to France to continue the international crime deal.
Soon Tobias confesses to Dr. Peyser that he’s with the CIA, but Peyser doesn’t believe it, and he tries to make secret phone calls to get himself rescued. Back home, his partying daughter, the bride-to-be, and her mother just laugh it off, and the doctor finds himself in worse and worse predicaments. In order to escape, the doctor must distract a pursuing homosexual Frenchman while Tobias pulls a switch on the bad guys. The Frenchman finally tries to kiss Dr. Peyser, who is completely disgusted.
When the men do finally manage to escape, they wonder if they’ll be able to make it back to their own children’s weddings. With the FBI after both of them and Tobias’s female partner’s possible betrayal, it looks like all will be sabotaged. To make matters worse, the ex Mrs. Tobias (Candice Bergen) has arrived and is intent upon discussing old, sensitive issues and his lack of good parenting through the years.
Though Tobias has booked Casey and the Sunshine Band, Melissa’s best friend reveals some information that could cause the whole wedding to be called off. Finally, to top it all off, the submarine-for-sale manages to surface right along the shore of the wedding party, and high-speed chases and explosions soon ensue. Amidst the fireworks, Tobias and Dr. Peyser each get the opportunity to re-evaluate their priorities and really see their families and their own lives with new eyes.
THE IN-LAWS has a lot of great laughs, and Albert Brooks truly steals the show as the reluctant, neurotic doctor who’s being dragged through an international espionage adventure by a crazy soon-to-be relative, Michael Douglas. There is a lot of silliness and hokiness, but there is also a lot of physical humor and great stunts.
Regrettably, one of the main shticks of the story is where a homosexual Frenchman is pursuing the doctor. The humor in this running gag goes about two notches too far. THE IN-LAWS also has its share of language, with about 15 obscenities and seven profanities, and there are allusions to drug and alcohol use and abuse. The wedding is officiated by a female rabbi and a Buddhist priest, though the protagonist thanks the Almighty several times.
At its core, however, THE INLAWS hits on the issue that so many Hollywood writers understand: the issue of the heart of the father. Though portrayed through humor, it is revealed that both the bride and the groom have problems with their fathers, and both fathers have problems being what their children and families need them to be. This changes in the end, happily, as “heaven” brings everyone up against a wall to face their own hearts. It would be great if some of these movies would go one step further and show how the One True God is the father to the fatherless and the only lasting mediator of broken relationships!
Overall, THE INLAWS may do well at the box office as a mindlessly entertaining comedy for “date night.” Albert Brooks and Michael Douglas may not have the star attraction to bring in big crowds, however.
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(PaPa, B, FR, Ho, LL, VV, S, N, A, DD, M) Worldly outlook with Michael Douglas character escaping his pain by living for danger and excitement with some nods to God and the Jewish faith with references to thanking the Almighty, having a female rabbi officiate a ceremony, etc. as well as some nods to false religions with Buddhist priest also officiating wedding and reference to Candice Bergen's character getting help from Indian guru, and a running gag with minor homosexual character; 15 obscenities and seven profanities; violence includes fist fights, slapping, woman pushed off speed boat, etc.; plenty of homosexual humor with a horrified Albert Brooks character being pursued by a homosexual French man, who finally manages to kiss him; slight male rear nudity with Albert Brooks character in a horrible French bathing suit; several portrayals of alcohol and smoking, plus some allusions to drug use with guys giving each other concoctions to knock each other out; and, lying, disrespectfulness to parents, references to criminal activity, and groom tells story about premarital sex.