Sunday, August 2, 2015


The other night, while Judy was preparing our dinner, she made some crazy, funny little move in the kitchen and called out "Serpentine! Serpentine!"

We both laughed and then she said, "what movie was that from?"

"The IN-LAWS, with Peter Falk and Alan Arkin," I replied.

"That was a funny movie," she said. "If you ever get a chance to get a copy of that, do it. I'd love to see it again.

Duly noted and filed. A couple of days later, I was in one of the thrift stores that I frequent looking for bargain DVDs. Imagine my surprise to find a used copy of THE IN-LAWS on the shelf! For two bucks, I couldn't go wrong. I bought the DVD and when I got home that evening, I told Judy that we were going to have a movie night on Friday but that the film we would be viewing was going to be a surprise.

Sure enough, I genuinely surprised her when I produced the IN-LAWS DVD on Friday evening. She popped some popcorn in the microwave and we sat down to enjoy the film.

For the life of me, I can't remember where I saw this film for the first time. I don't recall going to the theater to see it in 1979. I might have. But I also think I may have seen it on either HBO or Cinemax, back when those two cable channels ran movies and pretty much only movies. Either way, I had seen it way back when (as had Judy) and we both enjoyed it. We enjoyed it again the other night.

The film stars Peter Falk and Alan Arkin as about to be in-laws. Falk's son is set to wed Arkin's daughter but not before Falk, a crazed "is-he-or-isn't-he?" CIA agent embroils button-down, conservative (and well-to-do) dentist Arkin in a madcap scheme involving currency engraving plates stolen from the U.S. Treasury and a visit to a third world banana republic led by a corrupt and bat shit crazy dictator.

Director Arthur Hiller does a good job with Andrew Bergman's screenplay and keeps things moving at a brisk pace. There are occasional lapses in continuity, especially at the beginning of the film where an armored car is hijacked in what is clearly Los Angeles, only to have one of the bandits subsequently enter a building and emerge upon a rooftop in Washington, D.C. (!).

That's a minor quibble because the real joy here is watching the performances by Arkin and Falk, especially Falk, who steals the show as the unhinged, make-it-up-as-you-go-along CIA operative. There are several truly funny set pieces with the duo, including the famous "serpentine, serpentine" scene and Senor Pepe is an absolutely inspired bit of lunacy. 

THE IN-LAWS isn't the funniest movie I've ever seen but Judy and I both got a lot of laughs out of watching it again. The film was remade in 2003 with Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks and Candice Bergen. I've not seen that version but I can't imagine it's an improvement on the sheer madness that is the original. Worth seeing. 

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