Customer Reviews: The In-Laws (1979)
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on November 2, 2000
All respect to Mel Brooks, early Woody Allen, Blake Edwards and any other brilliant filmmaker who has turned their talents to creating the ultimate comedy...they all must take a back seat to this film.
I've never experienced such a perfect merging of screenplay, characterization and direction. Arkin and Falk have a chemistry and timing that simply must be seen to be believed.
I've been a movie buff for a long time, but I must admit that totally missed this when it came out. In fact, it was running one night on a cable station in the mid 80s when I first saw it. I was visiting my parents, and on it came. I had just stopped in to say hello, but after the first 10 minutes I knew I wasn't going anywhere. I'll never forget sitting next to my father, who was in his seventies at the time, hearing him cracking up. He had a great laugh, a deep, full laugh, and I'd never in my life heard such pure joy come out of my father, who was a serious and subdued man. It may sound strange, but I felt closer to my father after watching this movie with. Sharing such a joyful experience with him will always be a very cherished memory.
Do yourself a favor. Find someone you love. Doesn't need to be romantic love, just someone who really counts in your life. Watch this movie with them. If it doesn't become a special memory, email me and complain.
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on August 10, 2003
This is, as you have read in other reviews, a great movie. My reason for writing this review is not to review the movie, you can read that in other reviews, but to let you know that the DVD is so much better than the VHS (I bought the VHS copy a couple of months before the DVD was available for pre-order, because I didn't think it would be coming out on DVD). That said, the banter between the Peter Falk and Alan Arkin is really great, and at some point, you will find yourself quoting parts of the movie. My wife, who does not like "these kinds of movies" laughed throughout the entire film. Anyway, get the DVD and give the VHS away, that's what I did.
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on November 15, 2002
Run straight out (NOT serpentine!) and get this movie! By far one of the funniest films ever made. The script has hilarious comedic elements which feature straight men who take themselves dead seriously saying and doing the most outrageous things. And, it is absolutly clean, so you can watch it with your kids AND your grandma. Plus, this movie manages to pull off have many different comedic elements--it is not purly slapstick (boring!) or pretentious highbrow schtick. Everyone will find something funny in this movie.

Who would have thought Falk and Arkin could be such perfect foils for each other? Falk is at his best here, very Columbo-ish, seeming totally scatterbrained but really knows whats going on. He plays a top CIA agent (who claims responsiblity for the Bay of Pigs). Arkin is a nerdy dentist who just wants a quiet life. What brings these two together is that their children are marrying. But that's the point where normalcy stops and looniness takes over. This movie is so jam-packed with funny lines you'll find yourself quoting it constantly.

Those of you who remember all of the dictators who featured so prominently in the 70s and early 80s will love the general.

Everything about this movie is great. If you like to laugh, you will find something funny here. Get it!
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This is a ridiculous, absurd, and amazingly funny movie. It is one of my favorites. All you have to say is, "Serpentine!" and anyone who has seen this movie will know exactly what you are talking about and likely crack up. I believe it is one of the most memorable scenes in all of movie history.
The scene in the diner with Shel's split pea soup is also one of the best ever. I don't know how much of that dialogue was written or improvised, but it is perfect. Arkin and Falk are so aligned in this movie that it is impossible to see anyone else in these roles. And who can forget the dinner at the bride's home and the conversation about Falk's experiences with large insects in the tropics?
I won't go through all my favorite scenes because that would be most of the movie. All I can tell you is to get the tape (or better the DVD coming out, I guess in May 2003) and enjoy it over and over again. This is a wonderful and memorable comedy that I treasure.
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on December 28, 1999
Serpentine, Shelley!
It would be a crime to give away almost anything about this movie, as each surprise is also an uproarious laugh fest. Let's just say that after a somewhat slow and amusing first 20 minutes, the movie takes off at a hilarious pace and never slows down again.
The synopsis is fairly simple: a respected dentist meets his daughter's future in-laws, immediately determines that the groom's father is crazy, and in a reluctant attempt to accept the situation, gets sucked into a rediculously funny web of international intrigue.
The performances are perfection. Alan Arkin as the bewildered dentist and Peter Falk as the possibly looney in-law are perfectly cast, as is the entire supporting cast of crazies.
This is the kind of movie that you gather a bunch of close friends to watch late at night, so that no one will be too inhibited to laugh out loud at it, which everyone will most certainly be doing.
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on January 26, 2004
One of the best comedies ever! Anyone who even tries to give this movie 4 stars should be sent to work with Vince Ricardo for a week.
In the 1970s some movie makers still took the time to build an audience's interest in the characters and the film. In this case the action moves oh so slowly at the beginning as you have absolutely no idea what is going to happen. And when the action does get going, it's one of the most originally scripted movies you will ever see. And one of the best car chase scenes you will ever see. If you haven't seen it, watch it!
If you have seen it:
"I don't know why they took away my drivers license Shel."
"Serpentine Shel, serpentine!"
"Flames! My car has flames!"
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This is, quite simply, one of the funniest movies ever made. For those used to Peter Falk as Lieutenant Columbo, watch him master the comic genre in his brilliant portrayal of Vince Ricardo, a CIA agent gone (apparently) insane. The straight-man counterpoint is Manhattan dentist, Sheldon Kornpett, played to utter perfection my Alan Arkin.

The plot is far too convoluted to even begin to recount, but the premise is that these two unlikely characters are about to become in-laws. In the days leading up to the wedding, more goes wrong than can possibly be imagined: there are dealings with a lunatic South American dictator, a chartered corporate jet flown by Falk and two Chinese gentlemen, and a dinner party capped off with the most ludicrous story about tsetse flies carrying off children in their beaks.

The pacing and direction from Arthur Hiller is first-rate, and the story is never slow from the first frame to the last. Although I love Falk as the loopy CIA man, I think the real genius in the film is Arkin, who makes an amazing foil. The subtlety of his performance (especially his masterful facial expressions) is a landmark in comedic cinema.

The DVD features several great extras, of which by far my favorite is the commentary track by Falk, Arkin, and Hiller.

This is pure comedy gold, and should have never been a candidate for a re-make, as it could not possibly be improved upon. I first saw "The In-Laws" in the theater, but I have watched it many times since, and it never gets old. I give this film my highest possible endorsement.
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on May 11, 2005
My parents introduced me to this movie, which came out before I was born. I'm so glad it was finally released on DVD so that we don't have to watch our VHS-off-television copy when we want to see this movie. It's a delightful comedic romp, and Arkin and Falk playing perfectly off one another. Some of the other characters are a little flat (the marrying son and daughter), but the action is hilarious for the two main characters. My favorite scenes take place when they travel out of the country illegally towards the end (I won't say more so I don't ruin the plot). Definitely check this movie out, and it is one you'll want to own on DVD to watch again and again.
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on January 10, 2004
Finally! This is available on DVD. I doubt there will be more than one pressing of this classic original since most people gravitate toward the new version for some inexplicable reason, so I'd snap this one up as soon as possible. I laughed my hind-end off years ago when I first saw this. It was an understated example of comedic timing and brilliant acting, and to my mind (though I haven't seen the remake, since I can't figure out why anybody would remake something that's already perfect, much like the new "Psycho") this is the only version worth owning. This is shown in widescreen format, thus preserving the entire picture you'd see in the theater, with nothing cropped off the sides to magnify the center part to fill the entire TV screen. For any widescreen 'newbies' out there, this is the only way to see a film. You don't know what you're missing until you compare a full-screen film to a widescreen version. With full-screen sure you get a bigger picture, but the sides are cut off in order to do it. There, I got that off my chest. Anyway, I was glad to see this release is in fact widescreen. There's also a commentary track featuring Peter Falk, Alan Arkin, Director Anthony Hiller and Writer Andrew Bergman. This feature alone is worth the (very reasonable) cost of admission and provides tons of insight behind the scenes. Truly a must have for any collection!
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HALL OF FAMEon September 2, 2003
A recent Hollywood effort starring Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks attempted to remake the classic 1979 Alan Arkin/Peter Falk film "The In-Laws." I questioned why we even needed a remake of this hilarious film. It's an insult, I think, to even attempt to improve on the first version; I didn't even need to see the remake to know it was nowhere near as funny as the original. How could it be? Arkin and Falk possessed the type of chemistry that is rarely reproducible. My awareness of the new version planted in my mind the necessity of once again viewing the original film, and again Arkin and Falk made me laugh repeatedly at the pointless shenanigans perpetrated onscreen. If you have never seen "The In-Laws," go to the video store or buy a copy of the DVD right away. This film is a clean, family oriented comedy (rated PG, but it does include a flag with some nudity which is so hilarious you can let it pass) that so rarely appears today. It proves that you don't need profanity or adolescent toilet humor to bring up the belly laughs.
"The In-Laws" opens with an intricate armored car robbery, as a group of thieves steal currency engravings from the United States Treasury Department. The leader of the gang then takes the engravings to Vince (Peter Falk) as part of the plan. Vince cannot finish his dealings with the thieves because his son will soon marry the daughter of Sheldon Kornpett, a dentist living in a beautiful house near New York City. In fact, Vince must go over to Sheldon's house that very evening for dinner in order to meet the bride's parents for the first time. Everyone Vince knows, including his family, thinks he works aboard as a businessman, but he is really a CIA operative. When Vince encounters some difficulties in his latest operation, he enlists the unwilling and unknowing Sheldon as his co-conspirator. The two men bumble through a series of madcap adventures in New York and Central America before finally arriving just in time for their children's wedding bearing the most unusual of gifts.
Nearly every scene in "The In-Laws" contains hearty laughs. Alan Arkin does a great job as the nervous Sheldon Kornpett, a man whose life is finally where he wants it and who isn't about to tolerate any disruption to his well ordered schedule. Peter Falk riffs off his Columbo character in his role as Vince, a guy who always seems to fly by the seat of his pants but who is actually an intelligence operative of the highest competence. Watching the two verbally spar with each other is pure joy, especially since Sheldon spends most of the movie trying to figure out what new nightmare awaits around the corner while Vince constantly strokes and soothes his unwilling partner's personality. Ed Begley, Jr plays a CIA section chief and Richard Libertini turns in a short but truly brilliant performance as General Garcia, an off his rocker leader of the small Central American country where Vince and Sheldon must go in order to stop an evil that threatens the United States. There are so many uniquely funny moments in "The In-Laws" that it is difficult to discuss them because they depend so heavily on the context for their humor:
Bird-like Tsetse flies and the Guacamole Act of 1917.
"My car has flames!"
Any scene with Senor Pepe ("Aw, look Shel; he wants a drink of water").
Benny and Billy, the beloved pilots flying the plane to Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Recognizing a trip to Scranton, Pennsylvania shouldn't involve traveling over the ocean.
"General, can we get a sedative for Shel?"
And of course, the most memorable scene in "The In-Laws," the one scene everyone remembers long after watching this film: "Serpentine, Shel, serpentine!" The first time I watched this comedy classic was with a friend in the 1980s. For weeks, even months afterwards one of us would randomly shout out "serpentine," which caused the other person to engage in a rapid series of erratic running maneuvers. We would laugh at the quizzical expressions on the faces of others who watched us without knowing where we got the shtick. When I saw that the DVD release came with a commentary track from director Arthur Hiller, writer Andrew Bergman, Alan Arkin, and Peter Falk; I listened to the remarks on only two scenes: those involving General Garcia's alter ego Senor Pepe and the serpentine bit. It is nice to know these guys still found this stuff funny all these years later, and the commentary also cleared up a question I had for years about this movie: were Arkin and Falk really close to laughing out loud at Libertini's antics? The answer is a resounding yes, that Richard Libertini did play his role with a view to cracking up his co-stars.
"The In-Laws" really is a great way to spend a couple of hours. Creating a remake of this movie was an exercise in futility since the original is readily available for viewing. The picture transfer looks great, the sound is good, and the addition of the commentary and a trailer for the movie make this version a no-brainer. Get out there and watch the 1979 version of "The In-Laws." You will be glad you did, and you will learn the importance of proper serpentine techniques, too.
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