Son in Law is a 1993 comedy film starring Pauly Shore, Carla Gugino, Lane Smith, Cindy Pickett, Tiffani Thiessen, Patrick Renna, Dan Gauthier, and Dennis Burkley. The film was directed by Steve Rash, previously known for films such as The Buddy Holly Story (1978) and Queens Logic (1991).
The film starts as a typical Fish out of Water story. Rebecca "Becca" Warner (Gugino) is a farm girl from South Dakota. She is just starting her college life at the University of Los Angeles, where the local ways of dressing, acting and partying confuse and scare her. By the time Halloween (October 31) arrives, Becca is seriously thinking of dropping out and running home. Enter resident advisor Crawl (Shore), a Surfer Dude who is willing to help Becca adapt to her new environment. He talks her into having a makeover and helps her learn to have fun. She now loves California life.
When Thanksgiving break arrives, Becca worries about returning home; her boyfriend Travis (Gauthier) has hinted at a marriage proposal, and her parents fully expect her to settle down with him. She actually dreads that thought. When Crawl admits to having no family of his own, Becca invites him over to spend the holidays at the farm, and effectively introduces him as her new boyfriend. He catches on and claims they are already engaged, angering Travis and and shocking her family.
Now Crawl has to win over conservative dad Walter (Smith), timid mom Connie (Pickett), and little brother Zack (Renna), face the revenge schemes of Travis and farm hand Theo (Burkley), and face temptation in the face of local hottie Tracy (Thiessen). Because Crawl is seriously falling for Becca, even if she is unaware of it.
The film is often mentioned as a pretty decent comedy, with Crawl rated as one of Shore's most likeable roles. Professional critics are less favorable to it; Roger Ebert pointed that Crawl is "one of those narcissistic cool guys who speaks in a monotone", making him hard to like, and said he found himself sympathizing with the parents who don't trust this prospective son-in-law, while James Berardinelli complained about the film having few laugh-out-loud moments and having an ending which gave him a "sugar shock". In any case, the film performed decently at the box office, earning about $36.5 million in the United States market, where it was the 42nd most successful film of its year.
This film provides examples of:
- Accidental Misnaming: Walter keeps calling Crawl "Crotch" and "Crap".
- American Gothic Couple: The Promotional poster of the film was a direct parody of the painting featuring the youthful Gugino in a traditional dress and Shore wielding a pitchfork with a costume boasting a mix of farming clothes and beach accessories.
- Blame Game
- The Cameo: Brendan Fraser turns up in a Halloween scene, reprising his role from Encino Man, which also featured Shore.
- City Slicker: Crawl fits the Greenhorn variety while adapting to his new environment in South Dakota.
- Continuity Nod: Link from Encino Man appears, implying that Son in Law exists in the same continuity as that film.
- Fish out of Water: Becca in California, Crawl in South Dakota.
- Had the Silly Thing in Reverse: Crawl looks back to drive in reverse, but rides the tractor forward through the fence.
- Incest Is Relative: Played with. When Becca first mentions originating from a farm in South Dakota, Crawl gets dirty thoughts. He immediately asks "So you're inbred? ...You know, where your mom's your dad, and your dad's your brother."
- Jerkass: Theo, the Warners' farm hand, towards Crawl.
- The Makeover: In the first part of the film, Crawl gives one to Becca. In the second one, he gives one to Connie, helping bring her out of her shell.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Crawl is the nickname of the character, but he rarely uses his first name (Fred) and never reveals his last name. He explains how he got the nickname: "Because that's how I used to get home my freshman year."
- Parental Hypocrisy: Walter tends to ride Zack pretty hard about his interests, only to complain when his own father does the same to him. Crawl pointing this out is a wake-up call for him.
- Parental Marriage Veto: The Warners consider Crawl unacceptable as a prospective son-in-law. He has to win them over. Sounds familiar?
- Surfer Dude: Crawl.
- Thanksgiving Day Plot
- Wisdom from the Gutter: Unsurprisingly, the Warners largely look down on Crawl, but he offers them some surprising insight about improving their lives, such as Walter's tense relationship with Zack.