Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jennifer Lopez, Jane Fonda, Michael Vartan, Wanda Sykes, Monet Mazur, Will Arnett, Adam Scott, Elaine Stritch
Written by: Anya Kochoff
Directed by: Robert Luketic
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sex references and language
Running Time: 95
Date: 03/18/2013

Monster-in-Law (2005)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Meet the Fonda

By Rob Blackwelder, SPLICEDwire

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Since it's propped up by most of the same jokes and plot devices as any other comedy about obnoxious in-laws (Meet the Parents, The In-Laws, Mickey Blue Eyes), there's really only one question to answer about Monster-in-Law: Is it worth 10 bucks to watch Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda retread the same sitcom territory recently trampled twice by Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro?

The short answer is "No."

But while hardly original and certainly predictable, Monster-in-Law does have some good chuckles -- although few of them come from Lopez, who gives a shrug-worthy performance as an off-the-shelf romantic-comedy heroine, tailored with all the sweetly quirky foibles that Hollywood thinks will make gorgeous actresses seem like everyday gals who can't find a man.

In this case Lopez plays a struggling artist and office temp with a dozen part-time jobs (dog walker, receptionist, caterer), who nonetheless has her own roomy, sunny, well-decorated beachfront apartment in Venice, California.

Being dragged along the shore one day by a dozen rich people's dogs, she catches the eye of an utterly vanilla Mr. Perfect Nice Guy, a handsome doctor played by Michael Vartan from "Alias." Then, when they get engaged (this movie isn't about falling in love), she meets his nightmare of an apron-strings mother -- a washed-up TV chat-show host now in a mid-life crisis, played with rock-candy gusto by Jane Fonda.

Out to sabotage the wedding plans and save her precious boy from marrying beneath him, Fonda returns to acting, after 15 years, in sharply funny form. Even as the obvious and over-the-top script concocts asinine excuses for Fonda to move in with the couple and wreak havoc, the actress brings delightful nuance to her duplicity.

She does get upstaged, however, by scene-stealers Wanda Sykes (from TV's "Wanda at Large") as Fonda's sharp-tongued personal assistant who tries to derail her plots), and by comedy legend Elaine Stritch (most recently seen in Woody Allen's Small Time Crooks) as Fonda's own wickedly biting mother-in-law.

Eventually Lopez catches on, of course, and begins to fight fire with fire, until the inevitably over-simplistic mutual epiphany that resolves everything just in time for the couple to say "I do." (Being a sitcom male, Vartan never catches on at all -- to any of this.)

Directed with a generic twinkle by Robert Luketic ( Legally Blonde), Monster-in-Law does earn laughs on a fairly steady basis -- but not enough of them to make up for the fact that it's not a very good movie overall.

Best Buy Co, Inc.