Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Peter Falk, Alan Arkin
Director: Arthur Hiller
Audio: PCM Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Criterion
Features: See Review
Length: 103 Minutes
Release Date: July 5, 2016

Dad and his mysterious phone calls.”

What the hell do you mean by that?”

Nothing. You’re just always making these weird calls in back rooms and pay booths.”

You little snot-nose! Those phone calls put you through college!”

Film ***1/2

I’ve seen enough terrific comedy scenarios inspired by 1979‘s The In-Laws to know that it was a true comedic gem long before I saw it. Movies such as Midnight Run, The Whole Nine Yards and Meet the Parents have ingredients that come directly from this classic in realm of farcical caper comedies. But even at the time, it was a pure no-brainer to combine the comedic talents of Alan Arkin and Peter Falk.

And it’s their one of a kind chemistry that makes this the cherished comedy that it has become. Other than The Odd Couple, there hasn’t been a more winning mismatched pair than Falk’s deceptive spy Vince Ricardo and Arkin’s straight laced dentist Sheldon Kornpett. And the movie itself is as clever and outlandishly funny, even by today’s standards.

The two are brought together by the occasion of one’s son being engaged to marry the other’s daughter. With the wedding approaching shortly, the bride’s father, Sheldon (Arkin) is finally getting to meet the groom’s father, Vince (Falk). They are only now being introduced to one another because Vince’s job has him away from the family quite often.

And following one of the most awkward family dinners in movie history, Sheldon doesn’t seem to trust Vince one bit. That mistrust only escalates when he shows up at Sheldon’s dentist practice unannounced and persuades him to help him attain some items from a safe at Vince’s office. And right then and there the elaborate hijinks ensue as the two find themselves on the lam from both criminals and the government, with Vince revealing himself to be a CIA agent, which may or may not be true as the mixed signals Sheldon is getting begin to increase.

The main highlight in the comedic proceedings is watching Arkin’s character progress from a calm, mild mannered type to that of a man on the verge of absolute insanity as a result of everything Falk has put him through. It shows you how Arkin is one of the most versatile comedic actors of all time, able to play both mannerisms flawlessly. And as for Peter Falk, he is a master of this kind of role, one that allows him to wisecrack constantly in the face of multiple dangerous situations and remaining thoroughly un-phased.

The In-Laws remains one of the most breezy, effortlessly entertaining caper comedies of all time. Highlighted by the can’t beat teaming of Alan Arkin and Peter Falk, who surprisingly never got to re-team for another movie, and a fantastically witty and clever script, this is one film that deserves to be seen by any and all comedy fans.

Video ****

Criterion once again perfects a film from a particular era for a downright perfect Blu-ray presentation. With a new 2k restoration to boot, the picture quality displays its late 70s qualities tremendously. And crossed with a terrifically detailed presentation, the production itself shows off wonderfully, especially when the two wind up in Central America. An all around solid presentation, which is far and away the norm for Criterion!

Audio ***

The PCM mono mix is more than quite serviceable for this caper comedy. There’s actually plenty of action on hand in the movie in the form of car chases and shootouts, all played for comedic effect. All of which sounds fantastic, given the sound mix at hand, as does dialogue delivery and occasional music playback. Yet another effortless Criterion job!

Features ***

Criterion boldly showcases quality over quantity for this release regarding the extras, the first of which is a wonderful commentary with Arkin, Falk and director Arthur Hiller (ported over from the 2003 DVD release). The insight into how everything came together for the movie is revealed here, and the three men share fascinating and funny details. Next up is a new interview with Arkin titled, “Alan Arkin on The In-Laws: Sheldon Kornpett’s Gleeful Descent Into Madness”, where the actor delves into how he got into comedies after a string of more serious roles early in his career. A most fascinating piece, especially for fans of the gifted actor. There’s another documentary titled, “In Support of The In-Laws” which covers many of the supporting players and their individual reflections on the movie. Rounding out the extras is a Trailer and an yet another terrific Criterion insert booklet, which features an essay by comedy writer Stephen Winer, as well as a recollection of the film from director Hiller.


In terms of madcap farcical comedies, you can’t do much better than The In-Laws. Any film that pairs the likes of Alan Arkin and Peter Falk is already a winner, and their top notch chemistry combined with the outlandish zaniness of the plot is what makes this the comedy classic it has become today. The Blu-ray release from Criterion is a grand opportunity to rediscover it!

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