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Film: The In Laws
"This man's wonderful daughter is marrying my son the day after tomorrow!"

The In Laws is a 1979 comedy film directed by Arthur Hiller, written by Andrew Bergman, and starring Alan Arkin and Peter Falk.

Sheldon Kornpett (Arkin) is a successful dentist whose daughter Barbara (Penny Peyser), a psychology student, is marrying Tommy Ricardo (Michael Lembeck), a law student, this upcoming weekend. Everyone approves of the wedding and is excited, but Sheldon's a bit nervous because he still hasn't met Tommy's father Vince (Falk), who apparently does "international consulting work". When Vince does make it to dinner one night, he immediately turns Vince off with his tales of seeing tsetse flies carrying children off in Africa, and by the way he treats Tommy when Tommy makes a joke about the long-distance phone calls he makes. Sheldon wants to call off the wedding, but Barbara and Sheldon's wife Carol (Nancy Dussault) talk him out of it, and convince Sheldon to be nicer to Vince. So the next morning, when Vince comes to Sheldon's office asking for a favor, Sheldon says yes. Turns out Vince is really working for the CIA, and he's stolen some currency engraving plates, which he plans to sell to a corrupt Latin America dictator named General Garcia (Richard Libertini) in order to nail him in a sting operation. Pretty soon, Sheldon is wishing he never decided to help Vince in the first place, and Hilarity Ensues.

This film was not well-received by critics when it first came out, but it did well at the box office and has since been rightly regarded as one of the best comedies of the last few decades; Premiere magazine put it on its list of the 50 best comedies of all time. It was remade in 2003 with Albert Brooks in the Arkin role and Michael Douglas in the Falk role, but it wasn't well-received by critics or the box office.


Tropes:

  • Action Duo: Sheldon reluctantly becomes this with Vince, though not too much.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Vince tells Sheldon if General Garcia manages to steal the engravings and print up money for his country and others, they'll be "gold riots, mass suicides, atonal music..."
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: When Barry shows up at the wedding at the end, and starts acting upset, Sheldon and Vince are worried he's found out about the money they took — turns out he's just upset he didn't get invited to the wedding. Averted, however, in the fact he was just kidding about the last part.
  • Banana Republic: General Garcia's mansion is located on United Fruit Way.
  • Berserk Button: Sheldon has a lot of these, but most of all is when he finds out Vince has hidden the engravings he stole inside Sheldon's basement. To avoid making Sheldon upset again, Vince thereafter refers to the engravings as "the thing".
    • Also, Vince doesn't like it when Tommy makes a crack about his "mysterious phone calls".
  • Buffy Speak: In addition to the example listed under Berserk Button above, there's also the scene near the end where Vince, in an effort to plead for Sheldon's life and to stall for time until the CIA gets there, mentions all of the Latin-American children Sheldon has treated in his work as a dentist. General Garcia isn't impressed, and orders the execution to go on, at which point Sheldon exclaims, "That's it?!? The dental thing?".
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Vince is fond of this. Justified in that he's trying keep Sheldon calm.
    Vince: (as he's driving Sheldon during a high-speed car chase) Next time we're in Tijada, Shel, you have to try the chicken sandwich. They make it on a hard roll, with an orange juice, or a pineapple, you know the big one, El Grande and coffee, do you take coffee, Shel?
    • Also later, when Vince casually asks General Garcia for a blindfold for Sheldon and himself while Sheldon's panicking right before they're about to be executed.
  • The Cavalry: The CIA, although they were a little late ("Traffic was brutal").
  • CIA: As stated above, where Vince says that he really works:
    Cab Driver: I can't believe you work for the CIA.
    Vince: Why not?
    Cab Driver: I don't know. I mean, you know, I thought, like, James Bond.
    Vince: No, no. They all look like me. I'm the classic agency type; muscular, low to the ground, compact. Are you interested in joining? I'll tell you, the benefits are fantastic. The trick is not to get killed; that's really the key to the benefit program.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Subverted; everyone seems to think Vince is this — and Barry Lutz even tells Sheldon Vince is this — but it's mostly an act. He's really a good agent, tough and intelligent, if a little flaky.
    • Played straight with General Garcia.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Vince.
    Vince: (before driving down the wrong side of the street) You know, I'm such a great driver, it's incomprehensible that they took my license away.
    • Also, the cab driver.
    Sheldon: Did we hit the little boy on 6th Avenue?
    Vince: No, we missed him by a good foot and a half.
  • Eureka Moment: When Carol figures out how the engravings got into her basement.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: We don't actually see Vince running over a pig in the car, but with the blood on the windshield...
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Veteran character actor James Hong plays the man who gives Sheldon the flight safety speech before they fly off — in Chinese.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    General Garcia: I am a pacifist by nature, with a deep Quaker belief in the sanctity of human life. I wish I had a choice but to kill you.
  • I Lied: Played with: Barry says this to Sheldon at the end, but admits he only lied about Vince being crazy in case Sheldon was an enemy agent.
  • Large Ham: Alan Arkin (and later Richard Libertini), but since he's balanced against Deadpan Snarker Peter Falk, it works out fine.
  • Mood Whiplash: In-universe: one of the reasons why Sheldon doesn't like Vince at first is because Vince goes from telling tall tales to crying at Sheldon's toast (to Barbara and Tommy) to yelling at Tommy when Tommy makes a joke about Vince making another mysterious phone call.
  • No Indoor Voice: Sheldon when he gets upset.
  • One Last Job: Subverted; the scheme Vince cooks up does turn out to be his last job, but not only does he stick to it, he also doesn't announce that fact until after the CIA has rescued him and Sheldon from the firing squad. Of course, it helps he and Sheldon have $5 million each from what General Garcia paid them.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: After telling Vince he doesn't want to get involved in any more crazy schemes because he's tired of getting shot, Sheldon sees the cab Vince is in is being followed by the men who tried to shoot at him earlier, and so Sheldon manages to run outside and leap on top of the cab. When Vince sees Sheldon on the cab, he figures out something's up.
    • Subverted later, however; when Vince acts increasingly nervous at General Garcia's house because the CIA hasn't shown up yet, Sheldon doesn't pick up on it. Of course, it's because Sheldon isn't Genre Savvy like Vince is.
  • Open Says Me: One of the guys chasing Sheldon can't open an emergency exit. After yelling in frustration, he catches his breath, says calmly, "This is an emergency," and bust through the door.
  • Rule of Funny: The movie pretty much runs on it.
  • Shout-Out: While waiting for Sheldon to get the engravings from Vince's office, Vince and the cab driver are in a bar watching The Price Is Right.
    • Later in that scene, as stated above, the cab driver thinks James Bond is what a spy really looks like.
    • General Garcia does a ventriloquism act similar to the famed ventriloquist/comedian Seņor Wences.
  • Slower Than A Speeding Bullet: Played with. Vince warns Sheldon not to run straight away from the gunmen ("Serpentine, Shel, serpentine!"). But Sheldon spends so much time dodging sideways that he doesn't make much distance away.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: A bouncy soundtrack plays in the background while Vince and Sheldon are involved in a car chase. Subverted in that the scene is supposed to be funny.
    • Played straight later: at the time, it may seem innocent a squad of soldiers is singing "Trees" and "Buffalo Gals", but it turns out the soldiers are a firing squad.


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