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. Monster in Law tells the story of Viola (Fonda) a Barbara Walters-esque reporter who loses her job to a young, blonde skinny Minnie who she thought was there to fetch her coffee. Upon learning this news she has an on air breakdown and after some time in a psyche hospital she leaves only to learn that her only child Kevin (Michael Vartan) is going to marry some girl (Lopez) that she has never met. At this point 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 with Vartan’s character remaining completely clueless. I was under the impression this was supposed to be a comedy, except someone forgot to tell Anya Kochoff that when writing a comedy script the jokes should occur throughout the entire movie not just the last half hour or instead of a comedy you end up with 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 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 usually 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 shuddered thinking, “Wow, could this possible get any worse?” Fonda’s role would have been more suited to a Streisand, a Midler or a Streep, they would have that aging, vindictive diva role down and might have been able to save the film, I stress the might.
Fonda wasn’t the only one cast badly. Jennifer Lopez as the sweet, innocent, underachieving, slightly dimwitted and very naïve Charlie was about as believable as Ben Affleck saying “I do.” The scene where she was gushing about the importance of marriage and how her marriage to Greg was 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 so. You just can’t sell Lopez as the gushing, sweet, anti-diva Charlie. It’s just not possible. 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 clause in her rider and if it wasn’t fulfilled all hell broke loose…sweet and innocent, 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 glorified prop, a well dressed extra, a poor excuse to propel this sorry excuse for a plot along for the 102 minutes it bumbled across the screen. Vartan had very few lines, those he had were just plain bad and he then was unceremoniously dismissed for two-thirds of the movie just 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 wasn’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. Also, 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.
All in all stay away. Monster in Law 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.