R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Robert Luketic
scr Anya Kochoff
with Jennifer Lopez, Jane Fonda, Michael Vartan, Wanda Sykes, Adam Scott, Annie Parisse, Elaine Stritch, Monet Mazur, Will Arnett, Stephen Dunham, Stephanie Turner, Harriet Sansom Harris
release US/UK 13.May.05
05/US New Line 1h42

The boy is mine: Fonda and Lopez

j-lo j-fo vartan

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Monster-in-Law There's potential here for a wickedly funny Ruthless People-style black comedy. While there are moments of hilarious nastiness, the film continually opts to play it safe, sticking closer to the fluffy comedy of Luketic's Legally Blonde.

Charlie (Lopez) is a permanent temp, happy to "never live the same day twice". So of course this attracts the attention of successful doctor Kevin (Vartan). Over the months they become a blissful couple, until Kevin introduces Charlie to his high-maintenance mother Viola (Fonda), a washed-up talk show diva who decides her son is too good for Charlie. So she sets out on a devious campaign to undermine the relationship.

The first-act romantic comedy is so sweet that we know this film doesn't have the courage of its convictions. So when the blustery, twitchy Fonda enters, the screenplay continually undercuts her evil actions with explanations and moments of clarity that keep her from being truly despicable. Fonda is clearly having a blast here, and she's great fun to watch, even if she never tips over into a properly satisfying villain. At least her interaction with everyone else is superb--from Lopez's brightly sunny (but of course steely and resolved) Charlie to the sassy Sykes as Viola's reluctant and hilariously smart-mouthed assistant. And of course Stritch steals the whole show with a late entrance that upstages absolutely everyone. Vartan certainly doesn't stand a chance as the gorgeous-oblivious Kevin.

Luketic directs in his usual energetic manner, both colourful and bland at the same time, making sure everyone is beautifully turned out, unless they're required to look silly for some reason (cue Fonda's wacky hair!). The film works simply because it's fun to watch a drama queen like Viola bulldozer through each scene, and the action cranks up when Charlie starts to out-diva the diva. It's surprisingly good fun to watch these two actresses in these roles. But as the film progresses, we know that it's all heading for a big confrontation that's much more likely to go for swampy sentimentality than for the jugular. "Don't apologise," Viola screams at one point. "Show some backbone!" Indeed.

cert 12 themes, innuendo, language 9.May.05

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Monster-in-Law Laurie T, Minneapolis: "The movie was okay, had its funny moments, and was really kinda cute. But J-Lo's outfits looked like she was trying to dress like a 13 year old. She is a beautiful woman and should dress like it. A normal person does not dress like that - pinafores and pigtails - ugh! Maybe the guys liked her outfits, but I did not!" (20.May.05)
2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall