Newly wed Matt Landis and his wife Alex visit her parents and explain Matt needs $30,000 for his life-long dream, a reputed cooking course and starting a restaurant. Her rich, haughtily domineering pa, Victor Pellet, offers them the loan, provided they save rent by moving in. Alex's ma Marlena is starting a career in real estate and neglecting housekeeping, for which Victor also blames Matt. Thus starts Matt's ordeal of constant criticism and manipulation.
Matt and Victor are happy to keep physically apart, but the girls force them together. Victor must let Matt drive him to and from the optician, in his beloved Fleetwood car. Despite his excessive instructions that goes well, but while parking it Matt smashes the garage. Victor is furious, but Matt discovers the car was already smashed and repaired behind his back.
Matt complains about Victor's worn-out guest bed. When Matt and Alex want to buy a new bed, Victor persuades him to get one from his friend Chester, the Mattress King. Victor gets a deal on a luxury model that Matt can't afford. Now they rival as to who can choose and pay for the bed, leading to sneaky exchanges.
After a year, Matt still has to climb in through the window because Victor never gave him a key to the house. What's even worse is that the catered private wedding anniversary dinner he was planning with Alex, is on the very Saturday of a box finale that Victor invited his garage friend Reno to. When Matt tells him about it, Victor assumes he and Marlene are also invited to the dinner. Worst still, he does what he did at the wedding: overrule every choice the couple made.
Matt's latest ordeal are 'Pellet day' traditions. He's blamed for ruining apple picking by washing the car 'guaranteed to cause rain', in this case a storm. Next the rainy plan B: Monopoly, with crazy pellet rules such as 'all blue for ma'. Alex ends up insisting they turn to regular rules, next they play his games, Celebrity guessing. The Pellet insider hints and team-unconditional hints for relatives make it even worse for Matt, who gets a crushing nocturnal surprise on top.
In their regular restaurant, the Pellets bump into Charles 'Sand' Sandowski, the one man standing in Victor's way to become the town's 'king of kings', star of the annual parade. His son Chip is a college friend of Alex, and befriends Matt. Victor is tickled pink when Matt learns Chip is to take over Charles's business. Alas, Matt's brave dream-pursuit inspires Chip. And the curse strikes again.
After neighbor Henderson's death at 97, Marlena is to sell his house, her first sale ever. The in-built giant bird-cage scares potential buyers off. Victor orders Matt to write a eulogy for himself. Victor expects an old, pet-free client, so he chases Ricky away, the only bird-owner who might buy it. Matt tries to mend the mess and save the deal.
Surprised that the Pellets have no decoration at all just before Halloween, Matt hangs a witch on their door. Before his in-laws can undo that naive error, it rekindles an old rivalry among the street's five families for the most ornate house, rewarded with a local newspaper mention and picture. Even mat's well-meant words at a 'peace conference' hosted by Victor fails to avert another 'war'. Matt surprises the family by opting out, Marlene Alex by pointing out she should side with her husband, and he again.
When Victor's softball partner can't play, Matt volunteers, despite hints from the girls that's unwise. Sour loser Victor is even sorer then the winner, but both solider on for days. Finally Alex convinces Matt to let Victor win, but she's overheard discussing that with Marlena, staring a whole series of reproaches and confessions.
Matt lets Alex persuade him to postpone their plans to accept an invitation from Victor to join him at the horse races, normally family-only. The men soon are on grim terms again, but Matt's winnings make up for the usual abuse. Next weekend, he's invited again, only to find Victor is after an imaginary luck-bringing routine.
Victor is delighted that Matt is out nearly constantly for his intensive gastronomy course. Alex however gets insanely jealous when she discovers his partner 'Dani' is in fact foxy Latino Daniela. Together with Marlena, she pulls a scene while even Victor admits Matt couldn't be so dumb as to be caught pants-down in the pellet home. Dani however walked out, so Matt is greatly relieved when she accepts to remain course partners, but only if the homework venue shifts to her apartment. A misunderstood phone message now sends Victor on a jealous check-up trip there, soon ...
The Pellets' Christmas joy is soon spoiled when Marlene's grumpy Polish father Howard alias 'papo' arrives. Mat initially enjoys seeing Victor suffering his usual fate of defenseless verbal abuse, then sympathetically tries to mediate. Unlike the evasive girls, who just fail to do so, he gets them to discuss their deepest grudges. It turns out Marlene owes them a major rectification.
When Victor needs a temp urgently to man the phone at his security firm's reception, Matt volunteers. Although not amused he must hide his identity to avoid nepotism suspicions, 'Vince' soon proves himself a model worker and popular colleague, to Victor's surprise. Matt's self-confidence is dented however by meeting the perfect man for Akex in Victor's eyes, as he can't think of any flaw himself.
The Pellet and Landis couples each book a double room in the same hotel for a trip to Dixieland. An argument over the girls being spoiled rotten gets so bad that the men end up bunking uncomfortably in one room, bickering but becoming closers, their wives in the others. Marlena refuses to have her holiday spoiled and drags Alex to a nocturnal Confederate victory reenactment participants party, enjoying Dixie flirtation and booze, until drunkenness renders her melancholic.
Matt's Jewish mother Rochelle Landis visits. As if a revolutionary tree-hugger weren't bad enough in Victor's book, the seasoned activist opposes his pet project, a faster car service chain, on environmental grounds, all the way into the municipal council. Yet when Matt bitterly turns away because she repeats a bright guy like him should do law rather then 'just' cooking, Victor pleads filial piety.