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The In-Laws (1979)
Director Arthur Hiller presses all the right buttons with this one
I've just seen this film for the third time - the first was in 1979 when it was in the cinemas, the second was in 1989, and last night - 1999. And each time I've loved it. Somehow it catches just the right note early on, and manages to maintain it right thru the film.
I think the character of Vince (Peter Falk) is the key. At the start of the film we are convinced that he is a loud-mouthed schmuck with criminal tendencies, embarrassing and unpleasant to be around. This image slowly begins to crack, and although his behavior doesn't change one iota from start to finish, our perception of him does. So much so that by the close of the film we come to see him as a man of heroic qualities, gracious, and modest to boot. It's a very clever transformation and it's achieved via a plot that spirals hilariously out of control at dazzling speeds.
And of course the other joy of the film is the unlikely relationship which develops under fire between the zany CIA operative Falk and Alan Arkin as the dull but respectable dentist.