The In-Laws is a quintessentially 1970s American movie. It's a comedy, a thriller, a bromance, and a commentary on U.S. foreign policy in Latin America, all in one. Thankfully, it also has Peter Falk and Alan Arkin in it, so we're not overwhelmed by all that beige.

The film has long been one of my favorites for personal reasons. I was a young boy in New York City in the 1970s, and the film displays a big chunk of my native city at that time, which makes me nostalgic ("those buses! Those taxis! The goddamn cigarette ads!") Also, I have clear memory of my father taking me to see it in a theater, and along with Star Wars it my be one of my earliest movie memories (oh, also 2001: A Space Odyssey in London when I was nine).

The first scene, pre-credits, is an armored car robbery. One which may well have started the whole 'electromagnet heist' trope, I dunno. But it happens, and the robbers dump all the money in the truck out looking for their objective, which they find and carry off to hand off to a man calmly reading a newspaper on a nearby rooftop. He chats with the lead thief for a moment, where they discuss the price for the oepration, and then they split up amicably. This, then, is the thriller setup - and the opening credits roll.

Immediately afterward, we meet a New York dentist, Dr. Sheldon Kornpett (Arkin) has a daughter. She is due to marry her fiancé, and the fiancé's parents are coming over to dinner at the Kornpett's suburban home. The fiancé, by the way, is well-liked by Sheldon and his wife.

The soon-to-be in-laws arrive. The mother seems quite nice, but the father...well, there's something wrong with him. Vince Ricardo (Falk) is eccentric, needing to make a mysterious long-distance call from the basement, and mercurial, shouting at his son when the latter wryly comments on how often this happens. We follow him to the basement, where he hides something in a duct. And yes, he's the man on the rooftop.

Thus our zany adventure commences. Before the end, it will involve banana republics (most literally), the global financial system, the CIA, the Bay of Pigs, lots of handguns, chases, escapes, and the standard mis-matched partners shtick as Arkin's uptight Scarsdale dentist is drawn into the seedy and dangerous world that Vince seems to inhabit.

The real question, though, is what the hell is Vince up to? And how far will he drag Sheldon into it? And will they both survive?

The In-Laws is one of the 1970s best general fun movies. I strongly recommend it, especially if you like Peter Falk.

Also, I ate in the diner in which Vince explains the Bay of Pigs, when I was a wee lad.

The In-Laws (1979)

Directed by Arthur Hiller (Man of La Mancha, Silver Streak, See no Evil, Hear no Evil)

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