The In-Laws Criterion Collection Blu-ray review
When a man’s daughter is about to marry another man’s son, it would be customary for the fathers to get to know one another. Maybe it’s with a barbecue or a round of golf. Or maybe it entails something a bit more dangerous…
Barbara (Penny Peyser, Robert Aldrich’s THE FRISCO KID) and Tommy (Michael Lembeck, Vietnam War movie THE BOYS IN COMPANY C) are set to be married in a week. For all the time they’ve been together, their parents have never met. Now, the time has come for their fathers, Sheldon S. Kornpett (Alan Arkin, Mike Nichols’ CATCH-22) and Vincent J. Ricardo (Peter Falk, Robert Moore’s THE CHEAP DETECTIVE), to break bread.
That night initially brings delightful exchanges, good wine and fine roast beef. But while discussion shifts to Vincent’s work, chiefly his time in Guatemala encountering oversized flies, Sheldon grows suspicious of his guest, who also at one point steps away to the basement to make a phone call. “The man is crazy,” says Sheldon that night, threatening to call the wedding off.
The next day, Vincent shows up at Sheldon’s dentistry practice, asking to borrow the doctor for a few minutes. Sheldon reluctantly agrees. They end up at Vincent’s office, where he has to break into a safe. This leads to a shootout on the streets of New York City, a confession about CIA ties, a high-speed chase in New Jersey, a detour in Central America and a whole lot more. Perhaps bowling and beers would have been a safer outing.
THE IN-LAWS is far more ambitious than such a movie might ever need to be. It is also relentless in its attempts to present an element of zaniness that will catch the viewers off guard. For the duration, the movie is a pleasant surprise, a highly amusing little gem that tends to get lost in the wealth of great 1970s comedies. (1979 alone, the year THE IN-LAWS hit theaters, saw the releases of THE JERK, LIFE OF BRIAN and MANHATTAN.)
Writer Andrew Bergman (one of the numerous writers on BLAZING SADDLES; he would later pen 1985’s FLETCH and 1991’s SOAPDISH) introduces a series of madcap scenarios that, while certainly over the top, provide a steady stream of earned laughs. Director Arthur Hiller (1970’s THE OUT-OF-TOWNERS, 1976’s SILVER STREAK) handles Bergman’s screenplay with such ease and develops the story so seamlessly, resulting in a wild ride that has its share of twists and is brimming with guffaws.
As strong as the work of Bergman and Hiller is, it is the teaming of Arkin and Falk that stands as the highlight of THE IN-LAWS. With a different pair in the lead roles, the movie wouldn’t be nearly what it is. The chemistry here is unmatched and something genuine, a revelation that puts them in the highest rankings of on-screen comedy duos. (The supporting characters, including two Chinese pilots and one wild general, played by Richard Libertini, are also worth noting.)
THE IN-LAWS is like no other. It’s a comedy where every joke lands, where each performance is spot-on and where a firing squad isn’t out of the question.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. “This digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Director film scanner from the 35 mm interpositive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI Film’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, jitter, and flicker.”
Details and colors are quite nice, making this the best THE IN-LAWS has looked on home video. Purists will appreciate that the filmic quality is intact.
Audio: English Mono. “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered from the original 35 mm magnetic tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX 4.”
Clarity and balance is strong here.
Commentary: This 2003 track features director Arthur Hiller, actors Alan Arkin and Peter Falk and writer Andrew Bergman. The quartet offers a strong commentary, with notes on the script, production, style, release and more.
Alan Arkin (24:07): Arkin discusses his career and passion for comedy, with special noting of THE IN-LAWS and its director, cast and plot.
In Support of THE IN-LAWS (34:07): Actors Ed Begley, Jr., Nancy Dussault, James Hong and David Paymer reflect on THE IN-LAWS and their own contributions.
Also included with this Criterion Collection release is a booklet featuring an essay by comedy writer Stephen Winer and a 2011 recollection of the making of the film by Hiller.