It's often hard to see the remake of a classic movie without immediately comparing the new with the old. Lucky for me, I haven't seen the 1979 version of The In-Laws, as many tell me it's a comedy classic. Classic is not the word I'd use to describe the remake, though.
Albert Brooks plays the mild-mannered podiatrist father-of-the-bride. He becomes entangled with Michael Douglas' character, the groom's father, who also happens to be a CIA agent. The two must thwart an international arms-smuggling situation while juggling their children's wedding. Naturally, high jinks ensue, and the characters learn a valuable lesson in the end. Pretty tidy.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic picture looks good on the screen. Colors are crisp, and details are sharp. I rarely detected any artifacts, although slight jumps and tweaks were visible here and there. Small details were audible in the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, and the background noise was present without being overpowering. A few extras complete the package, including 11 minutes of deleted scenes and commentary by director Andrew Fleming. I watched the gag reel hoping for a few silly laughs but only chuckled a little here and there.
Overall, the movie was OK, but you can judge if it stands up to the original. I did laugh out loud a few times, but I wouldn't reach for this flick above all others on a day when I need a pick-me-up.—Amy Carter
DVD: National Lampoon's Vacation and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation Special Editions—both Warner Brothers
A simple idea from the pages of National Lampoon eventually snowballed into four feature films that poke resonant fun at the downside of family trips. The first film (two decades old and still the best) and its yuletide-themed second sequel were previously released on full-frame DVDs with no real extras; they're now obsolete thanks to these two recent special editions.
Vacation (as everyone calls the original for short) still offers just a competent mono track but a new matted 1.85:1 anamorphic picture. The picture isn't bad considering what was probably a modest budget for 1983, but it's short on detail and reveals video noise in many places. The commentary track reunites Chevy Chase and his onscreen family plus director Harold Ramis, while an interactive station-wagon feature leads to a series of behind-the-scenes vignettes with costar Christie Brinkley and others.
Although hugely popular, Christmas is perhaps the silliest and corniest of the lot, here with clear dialogue and a surprisingly big Dolby 2.0 mix, especially noteworthy for its musical fidelity. The 1.85:1 anamorphic picture is colorful but has noise issues. D'Angelo, castmates, and crew turn up on this commentary track, including costar Johnny Galecki, one of the revolving-door, never-the-same sons from the series.—Chris Chiarella