J-Fo versus J-Lo
If all you want is a movie to put on in the background which will occasionally divert your attention from what ever you are doing then "Monster-in-Law" will probably work. But want anything more, a comedy which will hold your attention with sharp, original humour and a little thing called romance and you are going to be severely disappointed. It's not that the potential isn't there, a mother-in-law to-be not only not wanting her son to marry but will go to what ever lengths needed to make sure the wedding doesn't happen has the basis for plenty of biting dark humour. But instead what director Robert Luketic serves up is obvious fluff, the sort of non descript humour which can be found in 100s of other rom-coms and it makes "Monster-in-Law" a wasted opportunity.
Whilst stunningly beautiful Charlie (Jennifer Lopez - Shall We Dance) has never found Mr. Right that is until she meets Dr. Kevin Fields (Michael Vartan - It Had to Be You) and everything about him is right. So right that they quickly move in together and before she knows it he has proposed. But there is one problem and that is Kevin's mother Viola (Jane Fonda - On Golden Pond), who having recently been let go as a TV presenter is feeling vulnerable and is not happy that her son is planning to get married. So unhappy is Viola that she will do whatever she can to sabotage not only Charlie and Kevin's wedding plans but also their relationship that is until Charlie wises up to what she is doing and starts giving as good as she gets.
Right from the outset "Monster-in-Law" falls straight into being cliche as we meet the character of Charlie, a vision which would have men flocking to her door yet she is single, not unhappy single as she does a series of jobs, has the best friends including a cliche gay neighbour and seems happy in life. And then we get the meet cute, a shallow encounter on the beach with Kevin and then another in a coffee shop, ooh a meet cute in a coffee shop how original. I could go on because throughout "Monster-in-Law" we have these cliche moments, scenes supposedly romantic and amusing which have been done to death in other equally nondescript rom-coms.
Anyway after what seems a rather less than romantic set up which almost instantly goes from Charlie meeting Kevin to them moving in together we do get to the meat of the story as Kevin proposes to Charlie in front of his less than impressed mum. What follows on from there is pretty obvious as we have Viola trying to make Charlie's life a misery so that she dumps Kevin and of course Charlie becoming wise to Viola and making her life just as much of a misery. So we get scene after scene of annoying future mother-in-law being out witted by future daughter-in-law and it does end up becoming seriously repetitive. It doesn't help that rather than being darkly amusing with some sharp wit it all ends up very fluffy with gags which feel as familiar as the characters.
Maybe I am being a bit too nasty as "Monster-in-Law" is supposedly a fun little romantic comedy which is made for the masses who I presume enjoy cliche fluff. And as such I am sure that there are plenty of people who will like the cliche meet cute, the obvious gags which make up Viola and Charlie trying to out wit each other and the happy ever after ending which you expect will be exactly what people want. But it could so easily have been something so much more with real dark humour running through it as the level of violence between Viola and Charlie gets dangerous. It could even have had a bit more slapstick with actual battles and it would have been so much better than it turned out.
And sadly with so much fluff going on throughout "Monster-in-Law" it extends to the actual characters which could have been plucked from any other romantic comedy. Yes Jennifer Lopez as Charlie is lovely, any man could fall in love with her yet I know I have seen Lopez play this character before and so it's unmemorable. Unmemorable extends to Michael Vartan as Kevin because this is one of the flattest characters I have ever seen, in fact it almost feels like he's not even in the movie because he has so little to do.
And then there is Jane Fonda as Viola, making her return to movies after 15 years and after such a dull character no one could blame her if she stayed away for another 15 years. Viola should be bitchy in a soap opera way, scheming and nasty yet there is none of that just another flat and forgettable character. Ironically it is Wanda Sykes as Ruby, Viola's personal assistant which makes the most impact because her level of sarcasm is the closest "Monster-in-Law" gets to being funny.
What this all boils down to is that "Monster-in-Law" is a wasted opportunity, an opportunity to deliver something different from the norm and memorably funny with some dark humour. But instead it trawls through a series of cliche scenes with 2 dimensional characters and gags which you know you've seen before and often done better else where. For those who just want a bit of simple fun, a movie whose familiarity won't bother them then "Monster-in-Law" will be okay, but for those who expected more especially with Jane Fonda's return to the big screen after 15 years will only be left frustrated.