Release Date(s)1979 (July 5, 2016)
Studio(s)Warner Bros. (Criterion – Spine #823)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: B-
Described by many as one of the funniest films of all time, The In-Laws was a passion project for all of the main players involved, including its star Alan Arkin who helped to kick-start it into existence. Wanting to do a wacky comedy of a sort with Peter Falk as his co-star, he enlisted Blazing Saddles scribe Andrew Bergman to write a script, eventually bringing Arthur Hiller on board to direct. A madcap comedy adventure about a pillar of the community (Arkin) and a sketchy but lovable CIA agent (Falk) who find themselves on an outrageous caper that takes them across the globe, their aim is to get home before their son and daughter are married.
Looking at it from the outside in, especially in light of films like Meet the Fockers many years later, it’s easy to assume what the content of The In-Laws is going to be long before seeing it. Digging further in, one quickly realizes that the film is actually one of the best examples of the concept has to offer. You have two inexhaustible comedic actors at the forefront of a very strong screenplay, all under the control of a competent and talented director. Watching Alan Arkin’s straight-laced Sheldon Kornpett slowly disintegrate over the course of the film through Falk’s (or rather Vince’s) actions is a recipe for comedic gold, and it is. Not much more need be said. The In-Laws is a comedic treasure chest that holds up incredibly well.
The In-Laws arrives on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection via a new 2K restoration from the film’s 35mm interpositive element. The results are spectacular. It maintains the film’s late 1970s look but with amazing clarity and high levels of detail. Grain levels are thick and well-resolved while color reproduction is lush and varied, particularly during sequences in Honduras. Black levels are inky deep with excellent shadow detail and overall brightness and contrast is virtually perfect. Extensive restoration work has left the film stable and clean with no major instances of film debris leftover, nor has there been any egregious uses of DNR or edge enhancement. The audio is presented via an English mono LPCM track with optional subtitles in English SDH. It too is top of the line with wonderful clarity and well-balanced elements. Dialogue is perfectly clear, as are sound effects and score, all with good separation. It’s also quite clean with no leftover hiss, crackle, or dropouts of any kind. It’s the best presentation of the film on home video, by far.
The supplemental materials include the film’s original DVD audio commentary with director Arthur Hiller, Alan Arkin, Peter Falk, and writer Andrew Bergman, which is lively and enjoyable; Alan Arkin on The In-Laws: Sheldon Kornpett’s Gleeful Descent into Madness, a 25-minute interview with the actor discussing his career, his influences, and how much fun he had making the film; In Support of The In-Laws, a 34-minute featurette with actors Ed Begley, Jr., Nancy Dussault, James Hong, and David Paymer, in which the film and its content are discussed further by its supporting cast; the film’s original theatrical trailer in HD; and last but not least, a 20-page insert booklet with the essay “Serpentine! Serpentine!: The Impeccable Madness of The In-Laws” by Stephen Winer, “Directing The In-Laws” by Arthur Hiller, and restoration details.
One of the most successful comedies ever made, The In-Laws makes its high definition debut with gusto. Criterion’s treatment of the film is wonderful, and definitely a must-own for film fans and comedy fans alike. Arkin and Falk are perfect for each other, and this release is also perfect for your home video library. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons