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The In-Laws

There are basically two types of comedies: funny comedies, and comedies in which someone stumbles into a room mid-conversation and misinterprets an innocuous exchange as something to do with hookers and blow jobs. Gags like these, along with other musty old favorites, are strewn throughout The In-Laws, a lethargic remake of the winning 1979 buddy vehicle, which floated mainly on the hot-and-cold temperaments of Peter Falk and Alan Arkin in the lead roles. In the new version, Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks try their best approximation of Falk's unflappable cool and Arkin's ulcerous nebbishness, respectively, but they act like understudies in a Broadway show, struggling to squeeze into roles that weren't quite made for them. Director Andrew Fleming (Dick) makes no significant changes to the sturdy premise, which pairs mismatched future in-laws who get embroiled in international espionage in the days leading up to their children's marriage. But nearly all of Fleming's additions are subtractions, including the budget-Bond action sequences, a mincing French villain (how patriotic!) who mistakes Brooks for the legendary "Fat Cobra," and a Paul McCartney-laden VH1 soundtrack that peaks with an appearance by K.C. and some rough approximation of The Sunshine Band. The globetrotting plot sends CIA agent Douglas to the Czech Republic, Nova Scotia, and other computer-generated countries, as he sets up a sting operation for a black-market kingpin looking to purchase a Russian nuclear submarine. During the short window for a cash exchange, he also prepares for his only son's wedding in Chicago, but his brash temperament doesn't sit well with the bride's father: Brooks, as a phobic podiatrist who crumbles before the slightest adversity. Before long, Brooks gets swept along in Douglas' adventures, as the two men flee from bungling FBI agents and mob henchmen, hijack Barbra Streisand's private jet, and come to the realization that they're both lousy fathers in their own separate ways. Much as it did in the 1979 version, the frantic action occasionally makes the comedy strident, a problem that's exacerbated several times over by Douglas and Brooks trying to force a chemistry that never quite materializes. In their defense, Fleming and his screenwriters give them plenty of reasons to panic, including Candice Bergen as Douglas' overpermed, undersexed ex-wife, some astonishingly lazy thriller plotting, and at least four or five jokes about Brooks wearing a fanny pack. But perhaps the oddest thing about The In-Laws is that it's aimed at an audience old enough to remember not only the original, but also how much funnier it seemed at the time.

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