‘Monster in Law’ marks Jane Fonda’s return to the big screen after a fifteen year absence and Jennifer Lopez’s return to film after the Bennifer debacle. The film tells the story of Viola (Fonda) a Barbara Walters-esque reporter who loses her job to a young, blonde skinny Minnie she thought was only there to fetch her coffee. Upon learning this news she's been replaced, Viola has an on-air breakdown and after some time in a psych hospital, returns home only to learn that her only child Kevin (Michael Vartan) is going to marry a girl (Lopez) that she has never met.
After this we may both need to go back to aerobics vids
Hijinks ensue (think Meet the Parents with the women at each other’s throats instead of the men) and an all out war erupts between Fonda and Lopez while Vartan’s character remains completely clueless.
I was under the impression this was supposed to be a comedy. If that's true, someone forgot to tell Anya Kochoff that when writing a comedic script, jokes should occur throughout the entire movie and not just the last half hour. With much of the film devoid of laughs, Monster in law is a bumbling mess that makes you cringe instead of laugh, and leaves you wondering how ‘Klute’s’ Bree Daniel and yes, how even the ‘Wedding Planner’ could chose this as their comeback film.
In Jane’s defense she did the best she could with the script she had. It is hard to make Lemonade with rotten lemons, and that is just what this script is…rotten. The jokes were played out and unfunny and even the dependably funny Wanda Sykes couldn’t save this stinker.
Also, Fonda just isn’t suited to physical comedy. She tried: there were all the requisite falls, slaps and over exaggerated reactions but none of it played well. When I was supposed to be laughing I was shuddering instead thinking: “Wow, could this possible get any worse?” Fonda’s role would have been more suited to a Streisand, a Midler or a Streep, all have whom have shown in the past they have the 'aging, vindictive diva' role down and *might* have been able to save the film, I stress the might.
Fonda wasn’t the only person miscast. Jennifer Lopez as the sweet, innocent, underachieving, slightly dimwitted and very naïve Charlie was about as believable as the though of Ben Affleck saying “I do.” A scene where she is gushing about the importance of marriage and how her marriage to Greg is going to be the most important day of her life was one of the few funny moments in the movie, even though it wasn’t scripted to be. You just can’t sell Lopez as the gushing, sweet, anti-diva Charlie. It’s just not possible to suspend disbelief that far. Let’s face it, we’ve seen too many marriages, too many divorces, heck too many engagement rings and this is the same woman who purportedly had an 'all white objects' clause in her concert contract rider, and if it wasn’t fulfilled all hell broke loose. Sweet, innocent and down to earth, I think not.
And poor Michael Vartan. I guess he was just happy to have a starring role in a movie so it didn’t matter to him that he was little more then a well dressed extra, who serves as a poor excuse to propel this sorry excuse for a plot along for the 102 minutes it bumbles across the screen. Vartan had very few lines, and of those most were just plain bad and he was then unceremoniously dismissed for two-thirds of the movie so Fonda and Lopez could go at each other without him being present. The movie could have really gone on without him. As it was it was quite easy to forget that he existed or that he was even the reason why of all the shenanigans in the movie were happening to begin with.
Believe it or not ‘Monster in Law’ isn't all bad. About two thirds in something amazing happened: thanks to a doctor who was really a waiter, a bowl of gravy and a really bad allergic reaction to nuts I had my first real laugh of the movie. Watching Fonda squirm as her mother in law played by Elaine Stritch, shows up was priceless. Those scenes were the best acted and best scripted scenes of the entire film. They almost made the movie worth watching.
Unfortunately, this doesn't make up for the other 2/3rds, and I can't recommend the film. ‘Monster in Law’ just isn’t worth your time or money. Seeing Jane Fonda back on the big screen was nice, but I really wish she would have chosen a better vehicle to make her long awaited comeback.