Dentist Sheldon Kornpett (Alan Arkin) is nervous about his daughter's upcoming wedding, especially as he hasn't met the in-laws yet. So, a few days before the wedding, they are invited to Sheldon's house for dinner, and all goes well until the groom's father, Vince Ricardo (Peter Falk) disappears into the basement to make a phone call. Little does Sheldon know that Vince has hidden some stolen engravings down there - but he starts to catch on when Vince arrives at his surgery the next day with a request...
Written by Andrew Bergman, The In-Laws was conceived as a star vehicle to team up Arkin and Falk, and as far as it goes that turned out to be a good idea, because the two work very well together. Arkin keeps a straight face as his voice grows louder and panicky in the midst of Falk's dangerous schemes, while Falk sounds reasonable and keeps his cool as his story becomes more and more preposterous. They're such a great team that you wish the film was tighter in the plotting department.
The pair rush around New York being chased by villains as Vince reveals he is a CIA agent and has stolen the engravings without permission from his bosses, purely to highlight a money counterfeiting ring he believes is set to turn society into chaos. We're never sure how much of what Vince is saying is true, as it's clear from the outset that he's rather eccentric. At the dinner table, he spins a yarn of doing business in the jungle and having to put up with giant tsetse flies, then after a short toast to the bride and groom, he breaks down into uncontrollable sobbing.
Obviously the film capitalises on the awkwardness that meeting your in-laws carries, especially as you don't know if you'll get on with them when you really have to, but this movie takes that to ridiculous extremes. There are fair number of funny moments, mostly thanks to Arkin and Falk's skillful performances, especially when the pair end up in Central America to set up the dictator of a banana republic.
Sheldon accidentally having his BMW painted with flames on it, Vince leaping on Sheldon (twice) to stop him running away, and Sheldon's athletic method of stopping Vince's taxi are all worthwhile, and Richard Libertini's mad dictator is a great comic character, with his ventriloquist act and new flag for his country. Yet, while the film makers are at pains to deliver a screwball comedy, it never quite picks up a good head of steam. Mind you, its fans won't hear a word against it. Remade in 2003. Music by John Morris, which sounds as if it comes from a sitcom.