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August 03, 1979 - Image 8

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1979-08-03

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Page 8-Friday, August 3, 1979-The Michigan Daily
'In-Laws' an unfunny hack job

He may be Canadian-born, but in
spirit and deed, director Arthur Hiller
personifies purest regimented
Hollywood. In an industry still brim-
ming with flacks and sycophants, he
is the embodiment of the corporation
lackey; he knows exactly, cynically
what he's doing. Spurning a different
drummer, he seeks no artistic heights,
aiming only to please his bosses first
and the public second-and from the
moguls' myopic perspective, you can't
have one without the other.
Hiller gained his initial and dubious
claim to fame with the release of Love
Story, a movie happening preceeded by
such a plethora of pre-release hype that
presumably a wombat could have
directed the film and wound up equally
illustrious (perhaps more). His fame
nonetheless secure ever since, Hiller
has galumphed along with such un-
notables as Man of La Mancha, Popi,
and the soporific Silver Streak. Oc-

casionally he gets his mitts on a proper-
ty whose script and performances are
strong enough to lend the film artistic
credence (The Hospital), but even
these works tend to succeed in spite of
Hiller's supervision rather than
because of it.
As impervious fate would have it, just
enough of Hiller's films end up in the
black to qualify him as a "bankable"
filmmaker in the eyes of the Hollywood
honchos. These celluloid czars treasure
Hiller's implacable colorlessness as an
asset instead of a defeat; no need to
worry about any rebellious, "artsy"
pretensions a la Terrence Malick or
Nicholas Roeg-like a good doggy-
trained sitcom director, Hiller always
comes in right on the money. And
money, as any good American knows,
is what filmmaking is all about.
THIS SUMMER Hiller has
anesthetized us with two movie
premieres in less than a month. One of
these, Nightwing, bombed so
unequivocally that with any luck the
film might seriously have undermined
Hiller's marketability; unfortunately,
the director's other entry, The In-Laws,
is doing a depressingly socko business
despite the fact that it's every inch the
creative lead balloon its less fortuitous
compatriot is.
Hiller can't handle dramatic film, but

then comedy was never his strong
point. The In-Laws purports to be a
screwball romp of manic pretentions, a
zany epic worthy of the age of Hawks,
Sturgis and Lubisch; predictably, such
intended homages provesso studied in
their reverent machinations that they
end up about as spontaneous as Sunday
Mass. For all its frenzied activity, The
In-Laws exudes an air of flat predic-
tability that Hiller's pedestrian guidan-
ce only exacerbates.
The film revolves around the adven-
tures of as unlikely a match of two
relatives-to-be as you could ever
imagine. Alan Arkin plays a wealthy,
conservative, humorless dentist; Peter
Falk is a wacky. certifiably insane CIA
agent. The pair has absolutely nothing

acting (a total love-in reportedly
prevailed throughout the filming of
Moment by Moment). Hiller simply lets
Falk run wild, and the latter obliges by
chewing up the scenery in a perfor-
mance that's half Columbo and half
Marat/Sade, completely exhausting his
meager bag of actor's tricks within half
an hour.
ARKIN, CONFINED to playing
straight man to Falk's tedious mania,
limits his participation to an endless
repetition of double takes and slow bur-
ns, in effect recapitulating his
Yossarian's incredulous stoicism to a
world gone insane around him. It's
a rather heroic feat of restraint by this
gifted actor, but otherwise no more
stimulating than is Falk's shameless,

Te Ann Arbor Film Ceoperetive Presents at MLB
RICHARD PRYOR - Filmed Live in Concert
(Jeff Margolis, 1979) 7,8:40, & 10:20-MLB3
Funnier than Steve. Martin, foster than Mork, more powerful than a Robert
Klein. Look, up on the stage, its RICHARD PRYOR-LIVE IN CONCERT. 80
minutes of non-stop hilarity, this film proves Pryor as the funniest stand-up
comic to hit the stage in years. "His physical and verbal comic gifts range
from expert mimic and pantomimist to witty racouteur."-L.A. TIMES.


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PETER FALK I.) and Alan Arkin enioy each other's company, but suffer
from director Arthur Hiller's in "In-Laws," playing at the State Theatre.

(Fred Zlnnemon, 1966)
Beheaded in 1535, sainted in 1935, Thomas Moore was a fiery
16th century statesman who had a superb human facility for
adhering to righteousness. Brilliant portrayal by Paul Scofield.
Shot on location at Hampton Court, home of Henry Vill. With
ORSON WELLES as Cardinal Wosley. "An extraordinary human
and moving drama." (120 mm)
7:50 & 9:30 Aud A Angell Hall $1.50
We support Projectionists Local 395

in common save for the fact that one's
son and the other's daughter are about
to be married.
THE TWO FATHERS meet for the
first time shortly after the film begins,
yet before In-Laws blinks out, the agent
has taken his uptight patsy of a coun-
terpart on a bizarre roller coaster
odyssey involving murders, chases,
and finally a government overthrow in
a banana republic.
It is all quite frantic without being
funny. Andrew Bergman's screenplay
is strained and repetitious, relying on
multitudinous activities in the absence
of genuine wit. Hillerunfaiilingly exposes
and aggravates all these weaknesses;
His editing is off-key, his sense of
pace--especially in chase scenes-is
wretched, his control over his perfor-
mers is nonexistent.
It's plan that Falk and Arkin enjoyed
working with each other, which only,
proves that a harmonious atmosphere
doesn't necessarily produce superior


non-stop mugging.
Indeed, the only moments of real
hilarity are provided by Richard Liber-
tini as a wonderfully mad South
American dictator who collects kitsch
dime-store paintings as if they were
Rembrandts and holds conversations
with his hand like a Senor Wences act.
Yet even here Hiller loses control, let-
ting a genuinely funny absurdist
situation run on far too long and into the
None of this should be any surprise;
Hiller has chiseled the same ham-
handed, hammer-tongued insensitivity
into every work he's been assocated
with. He's the perfect businessman-
artist-he knows the rudiments of his
product, he runs a tight ship, he brings
his projects in on time and often under
the budget. He will keep on working, of
course, coolly dissecting his next com-
modity while a hundred more talented
filmmakers sit on the sidelines chafing
away for the big break which the trend
of economic times will likely preclude
forever. The bosses will gleefully count
up their In-Laws booty, pat their
favorite boy on the head, and sic him on
to play cinematic beanball with his next
The huckster cynicism of an Arthur
Hiller is predictable, at least; that
Sylvester Stallone should have fallen
prey to the same syndrome was not,
and his apparent gung-ho conversion to
the schlock faith with Rocky 11 is
perhaps the most depressing movie
metamorphosis of the year. More on
that tomorrow.
LONDON (AP)-The British Home
Office announced recently that it had
published a book on prison slang for use
by visitors to the country's prisons. An
official said 3,000 of the books were
printed at a cost of $350.

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11 .~w±I1irq STARTS
5th Avenue at Liberty St. 761-9700 TON IGHT!
Formerly Fifth orum Theater
He had to make a living like everybody else
... he settled for what he could get.
FRI6:00, 8:00, 10:00 SAT,'SUN 1:50, 3:50, 6:00, 8:0010:00
FRI $1.50 til 6:30 SAT, SUN Adults $1.50 ti l2;15


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