Monster-In-Law was the best of times and the worst of times. Forty-five minutes into Monster-In-Law I was terrified, but not of Ms. Fonda. No, the scary thing was the screenwriting crew that had brought this monstrosity to the viewing public. And then something happened; a spark, a convergence, a sweet redemption. This turnaround enabled the film to go from a disaster to a passable date film that actually had me smiling at the end.
You’ll know the ending and plot direction of Monster-In-Law if you’ve ever seen a romantic comedy in your life. Very little about it is innovative but the film is really chugging at the end. The plot is simple, Charlie (Lopez) and Kevin (Vartan) fall in love. Kevin’s mother Viola (Fonda) has just lost her high profile celebrity interviewer job, and of course she was already completely obsessed with her son. As Kevin’s relationship with Charlie becomes stronger his mom becomes more determined to break them up. Throw in a psychotic episode from mom and the stage is set for Fonda vs. Lopez, “Hanoi Jane” vs. “Jenny from the block.”
As the film opens we meet Jennifer Lopez as Charlie. Charlie is as sweet as candy and about as mindless. She’s a girl of many jobs, (dog walker, temp, artist) a free spirit just looking for a sweet guy. Charlie’s love interest, Kevin, is introduced with a slow-mo music sequence, which I couldn’t be sure if this choice was willfully insipid or willfully ironic. Regardless, Mr. Vartan is without question the weakest part of the film.
Thankfully the cavalry of Wanda Sykes and Jane Fonda is on the way. Sykes has about forty one-liners as Fonda’s assistant during the film and many of them hit home. Yes, she’s playing Wanda Sykes so it’s not much of a stretch but she’s got great comedic timing and injects much needed life. As for Fonda, she takes a while to get her sea-legs but once settled into the role of crazy mother-in-law she keeps upping the ante, and when Lopez finally starts fighting back Monster-In-Lawis at its funniest.
Remy (Adam Scott) and Morgan (Annie Parisse) are both decent as J-Lo’s pals. Remy’s role as the gay friend could have been dreadful but he plays it subtle and gets great results doing so. Two more reasons to consider this flick; J-Lo getting hit and J-Lo with enormous lips, I won’t say more but these scenes will bring sick delight to many.
While my grade is a C+, I will say this is a film worth your eight bucks. It won’t change your life and it won’t be remembered, but it does have some actual belly laughs and your date won’t hate you for it. Sykes and Fonda are strong throughout, and Lopez gets better as the film goes on. All things considered, Monster-In-Law is certainly poised to be the Revenge of the Sith romantic alternative. Sorry sci-fi guys, this could be your penance for Star Wars obsession.