Directed by: Robert Luketic
Written by:Anya Kochoff
Starring: Jane Fonda, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Vartan, Wanda Sykes, Adam Scott
Released: July 21, 2005
Grade: C+

Being a film critic is not my full-time job.  When you’ve had a long week, it’s hard to find the time and the creative energy to write a decent review.  For great films, I usually find the inspiration but for average films, it’s not as easy.  I usually ramble on for a few paragraphs, throw in a few negative comments and then fail to look for spelling and grammatical errors.

Monster-In-Law would usually be one of these films but since I’ve been on holidays in London for two weeks, I find myself refreshed and willing to give the film the full critique it deserves.

The story marks the comeback of two-time Academy Award winning actress Jane Fonda (Barbarella, Klute, Coming Home).  Having not appeared in a film since 1990, Fonda plays the clichéd mother-in-law from hell, Viola Fields.  Viola is very controlling of her son, Kevin (Vartan), and when he arrives on her doorstep and proposes to his girlfriend, Viola realises she will no longer be the top woman in Kevin’s life.  Playing Charlotte, Jennifer Lopez is this bride-to-be.  Charlotte (aka Charlie) is in for the fight for her life against Viola who is determined to find her flaws and end the engagement before it’s too late.

I know this will sound disrespectful but why does J-Lo continue with these weak, simplistic characters?  She is a fairly big name in Hollywood and I don’t understand why she doesn’t try for juicier and more interesting roles.  Since 2001, she has worn out the romantic comedy genre with credits including Shall We Dance, Jersey Girl, Gigli, Maid In Manhattan and The Wedding Planner.  It’s not that she’s a bad actress but she has the same persona is every one of these films.  Why can’t we see the edgier Jennifer Lopez we all remember from 1998’s Out Of Sight?

On the whole, the acting is ordinary but they have been dragged down by a disappointing first-time screenplay from Anya Kochoff.  The film is cute enough to begin with but then it turns silly and nasty in the middle stages.  I came to dislike both Viola and Charlie and this isn’t how it should be.  Charlie gives Viola sleeping tablets and leaves her sleep face down in a pile of tripe.  Viola puts nuts in Charlie’s gravy knowing full well she’s allergic to them.  These physical acts are completely out-of-character and turn the film into a borderline farce.  It was much more entertaining when Viola and Charlie battled with words.

By the way, what’s with Viola’s assistant, Ruby (Sykes)?  Is she on the payroll?  Does she live in the house?  She keeps appearing and helps Viola with her evil doings but I don’t know why considering she’s always disagrees.  Why doesn’t she tell Viola she’s a bitch and walk out?  In cinematic terms, she’s your standard goofy side-kick.  She has some good one-liners but they really needed to make Ruby more believable.

The ultimate cop-out comes in the finale which we know is coming.  Considering that 90 minutes is spent illustrating the massive hatred between Viola and Charlie, it’s upsetting to have it all resolved and wrapped-up in about 4 minutes.  Surely there could have been a more inventive or comedic way to do this?

Monster-In-Law marks the third film from Australian-born director Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde, Win A Date With Tad Hamilton!).  At the age of just 32, I applaud his ability to find the finance to fund three major Hollywood films.  That unfortunately that’s as far as my admiration will stretch.  There’s a few laughs amongst the mayhem but I dare say that the finished product is not the great comeback that Jane Fonda envisioned.