out of Five
Running time: 101
Yes, it’s J-Lo and J-Fo: Together At Last. Watchable comedy, enlivened by the presence of supporting actress Wanda Sykes.
It’s finally happened. Jennifer Lopez has finally made a film that doesn’t make you want to chew off your own arm inside of about 20 minutes.
However, the film is more likely to receive attention because it marks Jane Fonda’s return to the screen after an absence of 15. The fact that Fonda’s autobiography is out at about the same time is presumably just a happy coincidence…
Unhappy Mother Finds Focus For Angst
J-Lo plays Charlotte “Charlie” Cantilini, a temp (dog-walker, caterer, receptionist etc) who meets the man of her dreams (Michael Vartan), only to find out that his mother, Viola (Jane Fonda / J-Fo) is the woman of her nightmares.
Viola has recently had a mini-breakdown after being replaced as the star of a long-running daytime talk show and she’s afraid she’ll lose her son the way she’s just lost her career.
In addition, she takes an instant dislike to her son’s new fiancée, so, together with her long-suffering assistant Ruby (Wanda Sykes), she plots to scare Charlie away by becoming The Mother-In-Law From Hell. However, Charlie eventually wises up and the stage is set for the mother of all battles…
The trailers for Monster-In-Law are a little unfair, because they lead you to believe that there’ll be a lot more slapstick than there actually is. In fact, the shots of Fonda repeatedly smashing J-Lo’s face into a huge cake and of J-Lo walloping Fonda with a frying pan both turn out to be fantasy sequences. That said, the scene where they finally crack and start slapping each other is very funny, as is the scene where Fonda punches J-Lo in the face while pretending to be asleep.
That isn’t to say that all the best jokes involve Jennifer Lopez being punched in the face. There are several good lines, thanks to an impressive supporting cast that includes Will Arnett (Gob from Arrested Development), Adam Scott (Six Feet Under), Monet Mazur and Elaine Stritch, who makes an amusing deus ex machina appearance as Viola’s own nightmare mother-in-law.
However, the stand-out is Wanda Sykes (TV’s Curb Your Enthusiasm), who gets all the funniest lines and completely steals the film. In fact, it looks as if she’s been edited in to some of the scenes by having her listening outside the door and making barbed comments during the more serious scenes.
J-Lo In “Not That Bad” Shock
J-Lo is actually kind of adorable as Charlie, particularly when she starts to fight back. At the very least she proves that she can do romantic comedy, providing the script and the direction are decent enough.
As for Fonda, it’s a treat to see her back on the screen and she throws herself into the role with gusto. She also looks fabulous – here’s hoping she gets the acting bug again and makes a few more films. The only weak link is Michael Vartan – he’s pretty enough, but he’s painfully dull.
In short, Monster-In-Law isn’t quite as funny or as viciously dark as it could have been, but it’s extremely watchable in a fluffy, Friday night fare kind of way and it does at least provide the odd good laugh along the way. Worth seeing.