With June about to bust out all over, could there be a better time to exploit a wedding for comic ends?
In recent years, Hollywood has found nuptial bliss to be box office bliss too, from Adam Sandler in "The Wedding Singer" to Julia Roberts in "My Best Friend's Wedding," to Steve Martin's two turns as "Father of the Bride." And not to forget the biggest marriage comedy of them all, last year's "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."
Now The In-Laws is taking its vows to exploit those same ready-made foibles: the trials of trying to mesh two very different families while enduring a wedding extravaganza. It also throws in a little James Bond, along with plenty of strange bedfellows comedy from "The Odd Couple," and any of the last dozen buddy movies you've seen.
The result is a picture that's genuinely funny in spots. Unfortunately, it dissolves into the kind of sitcom silliness that would probably have you reaching for the remote if you were at home. (The climactic scene involving a submarine and a runaway torpedo could easily have been lifted from an old episode of "McHale's Navy.")
As the fathers of the groom and bride, Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks reprise roles originated by Peter Falk and Alan Arkin in a very good 1979 comedy of the same name. Douglas plays Steve Tobias, a loose-cannon secret agent who has neglected his son and is trying to make up for it at the wedding. Brooks is Jerry Peyser, a podiatrist and family man who longs to make his daughter's wedding as perfect and utterly predictable as the rest of his life.
Naturally, before long Steve has engulfed a terrified Jerry in his world of espionage, clandestine capers, luxury jets, and leaps from rooftops. Can the unlikely duo save the world from a terrorist and save their children's wedding at the same time? And along the way will they become fast friends? Yep, you guessed it.
Both Douglas and Brooks lean firmly on the stereotypical personas they've built in earlier movies: Douglas the square-chinned, suave, self-reliant hero; Brooks the high-strung, compulsive worrier, zinging sarcastic one-liners in frustration. (On seeing a pet at a Vietnamese restaurant he's been dragged to: "The dog looks fresh.")
Candice Bergen is Douglas's addled ex-wife, who we can imagine was driven nearly insane by her husband's peripatetic ways and who's found peace with a personal Buddhist monk. But the gifted comic actress doesn't have nearly enough to do.
In a good twist, the bride and groom, Mark (Ryan Reynolds) and Melissa (Lindsay Sloane), are the calm, mature anchors of the piece, enduring (mostly with grace and good humor) their fathers' childish capers.
Marvelous British actor David Suchet briefly sends the level of acting soaring in his role as the sadistic villain Jean-Pierre Thibodoux. When we first meet him, he's a creepy menace, a killer without conscience who hides beneath a cool exterior. Then Suchet reveals comic tics (Thibodoux reads Deepak Chopra to keep his anger in check), until he is stealing every scene.
Unfortunately, the writers can't resist turning him into a buffoon. His menace, and the nuanced character, evaporate.
But by then everything else that was fresh about "The In-Laws" has disappeared as well, like stale wedding cake left out in the sun too long.
• Rated PG-13 for suggestive humor and vulgar language.