Charlotte 'Charlie' Honeywell (Jennifer Lopez) is a Los Angeles dog walker and office temp who has a hard time finding any good men to date. Her dreams seem to come true, however, when she meets Kevin (Michael Vartan), a young doctor and the perfect guy... until she meets his highly groomed, TV presenter legend of a mother Viola (Jane Fonda), who thinks no girl is good enough for Kevin, and especially not a temp! With her mother-in-law trying to sabotage the relationship by driving Charlie crazy, her dream of a perfect wedding and marriage seems doomed.
Review by Louise Keller:
Jane Fonda relishes every scrumptious second on screen, in a hilarious battle of wills as her larger-than-life future in-law clashes big time with Jennifer Lopez' bride to be. Even the flowers look as though they are going to wilt, as these two formidable characters meet head to head and prove to be well and truly a match for each other. It is hard to believe this is Fonda's first role in 15 years, and her fun-coated, theatrical, self-parodying portrayal is highly infectious.
The biting barbs and extravagant excesses are right up director Robert Luketic's Legally Blonde street; the script fires with its barrage of double entendres, one liners and lavishly staged visual gags. The pace is fast and the laughs keep coming. Fonda's Viola is the kind of woman that devours all shapely shadows that cross her path. When she is dumped as television host and replaced by a younger model that sweetly requests an autograph for her grandmother, we are set up beautifully. Viola subsequently proceeds to set upon her Britney Spears-like air-head guest, like a bloodhound after its prey. And how could we not rub our hands in glee, when her precious doctor son Kevin (Michael Vartan) brings his new girlfriend (J.Lo) home to meet mother, and thinks it is the perfect moment to get on bended knee to pop the question. 'Say no,' prays Viola's acidic, sassy black assistant Ruby (Wanda Sykes, a standout), who is standing well out of firing range, waiting for the explosion.
Viola dishes up angst as though it was a gourmet meal, and eventually Charlie ladles it out as good as she gets. 'Is that expensive?' Charlie asks innocently, as she splashes a ladle-full of tomato sauce onto Viola's immaculate white Gucci suit. When Viola's initial plan to make 'the temp' feel out of her league in her extravagantly privileged surroundings with heads of states and the like, she changes tack - to make her future daughter-in-law's life so miserable, that she will not be able to bear it. This means moving in and dishing up night after night of traumatic insomnia.
Monster in Law belongs to the two women, although Fonda steals the show with the best lines, the showiest clothes and the mouth-watering moments. It might be about mother/son relationships, but the role of son Kevin is written (and played) as a pretty bland one, of a guy totally oblivious to the protracted claws of the cat-fight screeching around him. In the lead up to the climax, watch out for the marvellous Elaine Strich, as she makes her mark, as Viola's own Monster in Law. There are a few surprises, including the emotional climax. But it's not the climax that is the surprise, but how moved we actually become by it.
There's a proverb that says mother-in-law and daughter-in-law are a tempest and hail storm. In the case of Monster in Law, it's blowing a gale.
The DVD is a goodie, with a bunch of extras that interest and entertain. There's an audio commentary with director Luketic, Wanda Sykes, producer Chris Bender, production designer Missy Steward and cinematographer P. Russell Carpenter. And then there's the gag reel: "Are we rolling... should I start acting,' says Lopez. 'Why don't you come closer to me?' Fonda asks Vartan in one scene. 'Because the director told me not to,' is the reply. It looks as though everyone is having fun. There are a handful of documentaries, the most interesting one being Welcome Back Jane Fonda. Luketic talks about the first day on set, Fonda talks about the script and the character of Viola. 'I don't think I've ever had so much fun on a film - after 50 years,' she says.
Published December 8, 2005
Email this article
MONSTER-IN-LAW: DVD (M)
CAST: Jennifer Lopez, Jane Fonda, Michael Vartan, Wanda Sykes, Adam Scott, Annie Parisse, Monet Mazur
PRODUCER: Chris Bender, Richard Brener, Julio Caro, Magnus Kim, J.C. Spink, Paula Weinstein
DIRECTOR: Robert Luketic
SCRIPT: Anya Kochoff
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Russell Carpenter
EDITOR: Scott Hill, Kevin Tent
MUSIC: David Newman, Rosey
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Missy Stewart
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 21, 2005
SPECIAL FEATURES: Feature commentary, deleted scenes, Ruby's make up bag; gag reel, documentaries, soundtrack trailers
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: December 8, 2005