Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
"The In-Laws" is an accomplished but not inspired remake of a 1979 comedy which was inspired and so did not need to be accomplished. The earlier movie was slapdash and at times seemed to be making itself up as it went along, but it had big laughs and a kind of lunacy. The remake knows the moves but lacks the recklessness.
Both movies begin with the preparations for a wedding. The father of the bride is a dentist in 1979, a podiatrist this time. The father of the groom is a secret agent, deeply involved in dubious international schemes. The spy takes the doctor along on a dangerous mission, and they encounter a loony foreign leader who cheerfully proposes to kill them.
Now consider the casting: Peter Falk and Alan Arkin in the earlier film, vs. Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks this time. Splendid choices, you would agree, and yet the chemistry is better in the earlier film. Falk goes into his deadpan lecturer mode, slowly and patiently explaining things that sound like utter nonsense. Arkin develops good reasons for suspecting he is in the hands of a madman.
Michael Douglas makes his character more reassuring and insouciant, as if he's inviting his new in-law along on a lark, and that's not as funny, because he seems to be trying to make it fun, instead of trying to conceal the truth of a deadly situation. Albert Brooks is portrayed as neurotic and fearful by nature, and so his reactions are not so much inspired by the pickle he's in as by the way way he always reacts to everything.