Theatrical film poster
|Directed by||Arthur Hiller|
|Written by||Andrew Bergman|
|Music by||John Morris|
|Cinematography||David M. Walsh|
|Edited by||Robert E. Swink|
|Box office||$38.2 million|
The In-Laws is a 1979 American action comedy film starring Alan Arkin and Peter Falk, written by Andrew Bergman and directed by Arthur Hiller on various locations, including Mexico, which served as the film's representation of the fictional Central American setting. A remake was made in 2003.
An armored truck of the U.S. Treasury is robbed. The thieves ignore the millions of dollars in cash, taking only the engraving plates being transported in the truck, which are then delivered to an oddly-dressed man waiting on a nearby rooftop. The daughter of mild-mannered Manhattan dentist Sheldon "Shelly" Kornpett and the son of businessman Vince Ricardo are engaged to be married. At an introductory dinner Shelly (Alan Arkin) meets his new in-law Vince, (Peter Falk), the man from the rooftop. Sheldon finds Vince suspicious for several reasons, including, during the dinner, when Vince tells a crazy story of a nine-month "consulting" trip to 1954 Guatemala. Vince's son and wife seem oblivious and used to his antics. At one point in the dinner Vince excuses himself to make a phone call and, when he is told something that worries him, he hides something in the basement. Later that night Shelly urges his daughter not to marry into the Ricardo clan, but he is talked into giving the marriage a chance.
The following day, Vince appears at Sheldon's office and asks Shelly for help with a quick errand: breaking into Vince's office safe. Shelly reluctantly agrees. While retrieving a mysterious black bag from Vince's cramped office, two armed hit men surprise Sheldon. After a chase and shootout and flight to safety, Vince explains to the frightened Shelly that he works for the CIA and robbed the United States Mint of engraving plates to crack a worldwide hyperinflation plot based in Central America. However he says he robbed the U.S. Mint on his own initiative, that the CIA had turned him down, deeming the caper too risky. Vince claims that Sheldon need not be fearful of criminal prosecution, but says that if he himself is caught he will be jailed for 20 years. Vince further upsets Sheldon by telling him he had left one of the engraving plates in the basement of Sheldon's house the previous night.
During the wedding preparations, Mrs. Kornpett discovers the engraving and takes it to her local bank, where she is informed by the U.S. Treasury Department that it was stolen. Sheldon arrives home to find Treasury officials there and speeds out of the driveway, leading to a car chase through suburban New Jersey. Sheldon calls Vince and explains what happened; Vince tells Sheldon he wants him to accompany him to Scranton, Pennsylvania, and assures him the whole ordeal will be cleared up by the time they return. At a small airport near Lodi, New Jersey, Vince and Sheldon board a jet.
To Shelly's consternation, during the flight he notices they are flying over the Atlantic Ocean. He momentarily panics, but Vince calms him by saying they are still going to Scranton, but he says they first need to make a brief stop along the way in Tijata, a small island south of Honduras. When they arrive, Vince is supposed to meet a corrupt member of the small country's legislature, General Jesus Braunschweiger. However Jesus is shot and killed almost immediately after they land. Vince and Sheldon fall under sniper fire but, using the General's car, they escape and drive into town. At their hotel, Vince contacts the mastermind of the inflation plot, General Garcia.
Sheldon, tired of the ordeal, unbeknownst to Vince telephones the local United States Embassy and is told by the CIA agent-in-charge that Vince is a madman who was mentally discharged from the agency. Vince spots Sheldon at the telephone booth and guesses what Sheldon had been up to. When Sheldon tells him what the agent had told him Vince starts laughing and Sheldon tries to flee. Vince prevents Sheldon from escaping and tells him the embassy was following standard procedure in disavowing knowledge of agency activities. Sheldon thinks it possible that Vince may be telling the truth, but tells him that it does not matter, that he refuses to be shot at any more and will not go along with any more of Vince's plans. Vince accepts that.
Leaving the hotel, Vince hails a taxi and is driven off. Sheldon, looking on, notices the actual taxi driver tied up nearby and realizes Vince is in danger. Sheldon chases and leaps onto the roof of the taxi. Vince takes control of the car, crashing into a fruit market. After another shootout and car chase Vince and Shelly reach the General's estate. The eccentric general gives them $20 million for the plates and awards them medals, then marches them in front of a firing squad. Vince stalls while Sheldon rambles despairingly, and just in time dozens of CIA agents arrive to save them, led by Barry Lutz, the agent from the embassy. They overwhelm the general's army and take Garcia into custody. Lutz reveals that Vince was telling the truth the entire time. Vince retires on the spot, saying he has had enough of a spy's life. He gives Lutz $10 million he had received from the general. Vince and Sheldon take off with five million dollars apiece, which no-one else knows about, and on their return home give their children a wedding gift of one million dollars each.
I thought immediately, 'Didn't they do a movie?' It's like, they seemed so perfect for each other! Their personalities, you have a rabbit and a tortoise. You get a hysteric, a person who seems to have no feelings whatsoever...and I hate constructing plots, hate it more than anything, but I love constructing characters, and this was the perfect thing where the characters were the plot. Whatever Peter said to Alan, that was the plot... Since my stories are always about people getting in way over their heads... this movie was the perfect type for me.
The New York Times film critic Janet Maslin wrote, "Andrew Bergman has written one of those rare comedy scripts that escalates steadily and hilariously, without faltering or even having to strain for an ending. As for Mr. Arkin and Mr. Falk, it is theirs, and not their children's, match that has been made in heaven. The teaming of their characters--milquetoast meets entrepreneur--is reminiscent of 'The Producers'".Dale Pollock of Variety stated, "With 'The In-Laws,' Warner Bros. should have a first certifiable comedy hit of the summer. The Arthur Hiller-William Sackheim production brims over with laughs, but brand of screenwriter Andrew Bergman's humor (previously seen in 'Blazing Saddles') may be too wacky for mainstream audiences."Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4 and wrote, "In a way I feel guilty about knocking 'The In-Laws.' It's an original comedy in a summer movie season full of remakes, sequels, and imitative ripoffs. But if the script had given us more dinner party madness and less slapstick, I might have laughed along with everyone else."Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times called it "one of the funniest comedies of the year. This hilarious film, directed by Arthur Hiller and written expressly for Falk and Arkin by Andrew Bergman, wastes not a second in getting laughs." Gary Arnold of The Washington Post dismissed the film as "a heavy-handed, smugly cynical farce."David Ansen wrote in Newsweek, "What makes 'The In-Laws' so engaging is not simply the escalating madness of Andrew Bergman's story (such whimsy could easily grow tiresome), but the deadpan counterpoint supplied by the two stars, who navigate their way through mounting disasters with an air of hilariously unjustified rationality. Bergman's script was tailor-made for Falk and Arkin, and they make the most of it."
The film was remade in 2003.