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Movie Review

When the daughter of a neurotic Chicago podiatrist gets set to marry the son of a deep-cover CIA operative, it's the odd-couple dads who experience the most prenuptial stress. Circumstances are especially hard on poor Jerry, the foot doctor who gets dragged-kicking and screaming-into Steve's wild, dangerous world of international espionage. Obsessive though he may be, Jerry just wants to see his little girl have a memorable wedding. Steve wants to get to the church on time as well, but he's also busy trying to nail a notorious smuggler out to procure a Russian sub on the black market. Convinced that Steve is a rogue agent, the FBI doggedly pursues him, adding to the chaos. Needless to say, the hijinks crest just in time for the kids' big day.

positive elements: The film scolds absentee dads by making an issue of Steve's workaholism. He doesn't know his son's friends, can't recall where Mark went to college, and is constantly excusing himself from social gatherings so that he can "save the world." In the end he tells Mark, "You are my world." Jerry also admits to failures in fathering, mainly suffocating his daughter with loving control. Realizing that their families are in mortal danger, Steve and Jerry go on a suicide mission in order to save them.

spiritual content: On separate occasions, Steve alludes to "the almighty" and the "big man upstairs" as he expresses a belief in divine providence. The wedding ceremony is an odd hybrid of Jewish tradition and Buddhism (a female rabbi and a Buddhist monk are both in attendance). Mark's mom practices Eastern meditation.

sexual content: Weak attempts at comedy include remarks about pimps, hookers, masturbation, orgasms, strippers, penis size, sodomy and a foot fetish. The bridesmaid confesses to sleeping with the groom (which, after the initial shock wears off, doesn't seem to matter much to the bride). Mark's mother tells virtual strangers that the only redeeming thing about her ex-husband Steve was his prowess in bed. When Steve pays her a compliment at the end of the movie, you hope maybe they're about to give their marriage a second chance. No such luck. She replies suggestively, "I still hate you, but I do have a room back at the club." KC & The Sunshine Band sing "Get Down Tonight," which has sexual overtones ("do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight"). Although he claims to detest homosexuality as a rule, the effeminate French smuggler develops an attraction to Jerry that includes ludicrous come-ons and a stolen kiss. Jerry emerges from a hot tub in a revealing thong. Women wear skimpy bathing suits and show cleavage. Dressed down to panties, the bridesmaid sticks her backside into the camera. A business conversation between Steve and a strange woman in a bathroom stall plays out with a sexual double-meaning.

violent content: The opening sequence looks like something out of The Bourne Identity or a James Bond film. A man is shot to death, sparking a car chase that involves crashes and automatic weapons fire. The smuggler fires wildly at a fleeing traitor, missing him. He also surrounds himself with armed men. Bad guys of various persuasions rattle off rounds of ammunition without hitting much. A large wave knocks people around at a formal event. A plane crashes and burns. A submarine explodes. A man uses hand gestures to retell how Steve saved him in Vietnam by shooting the enemy in the head. Steve beats up an assailant in a rest room. He later judo-kicks guards and pulls a knife on them. A woman nails Jerry with a blow to the head and pulls a gun on him. She later knocks him cold with a single kick. The smuggler is a misogynist who admits to killing his wife, and shoves another woman out of a speeding boat.

crude or profane language: Just over two dozen profanities. The most egregious are one f-word, several s-words and exclamatory uses of God's name.

drug and alcohol content: There is frequent alcohol use at dinners, parties and business meetings. The bridesmaid gets plastered. Steve shoots a guard with a tranquilizer dart, gasses a car full of FBI agents, and slips a roofie in Jerry's drink to knock him out. The bad guy reportedly smuggles cocaine.

other negative elements: Deception, blackmail, theft and other tools of the spy trade imply that the end justifies the means. Jerry encourages his daughter to make her wedding day special with the comment, "This is the wedding you remember" (is he assuming she'll have others?).

conclusion: Brooks and Douglas have insisted that this film is not a remake of the similarly titled 1979 comedy starring Peter Falk and Alan Arkin. The studio's press notes say that it is. After seeing The In-Laws, the fact that the right and left hands aren't in agreement isn't a big surprise. It's indicative of the movie's incoherence. Not only is this comedy not very funny, but the lazy scripting and severely strained logic of several key scenes late in the film torpedo what little patience the audience has left. If all it took for the FBI to back off was Steve's climactic five-second explanation that he was a deep-cover operative, why did he wait so long to explain himself? There's no rational reason, except to prolong the chase. And what of Steve's associate, Angela? The critic's code forbids me from revealing a twist involving her, but let's just say it only makes sense for the sake of throwing the audience a late-breaking curveball. Toss in crude sexual references and I was ready to flee the theater. Serpentine! Serpentine!

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