**1/2 (out of 5)
May 13, 2005
Jennifer Lopez as CHARLIE CANTILINI
Jane Fonda as VIOLA FIELDS
Michael Vartan as KEVIN FIELDS
Wanda Sykes as RUBY
Adam Scott as REMY
Annie Parisse as MORGAN
Monet Mazur as FIONA
Will Arnett as KIT
Studio: New Line Cinema
Directed by: Robert Luketic
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Jane Fonda came back from the dead, and Jennifer Lopez came back from “Gigli” to make the new comedy “Monster-in-Law.” In the film, Jennifer Lopez plays the fiancée of successful surgeon Kevin Fields (Michael Vartan). They have storybook romance… at least until Kevin’s mother enters the picture. An overbearing and conniving woman, Viola (Jane Fonda) makes it her personal mission to torpedo this relationship before she loses her only son to a woman not good enough for her.
This film has been hailed as Jane Fonda’s comeback. However, it’s not much of a comeback in my opinion, reminding me of Debbie Reynolds’ big comeback in the film “Mother.” You remember “Mother,” don’t you? Well, neither does anyone else.
But it could be worse. Fonda’s comeback could be like Demi Moore’s comeback in “Charlie’s Angels 2.”
The beginning of “Monster-In-Law” is inexplicably long. It drags thought the first fifteen minutes or so, spending way too much time on Charlie’s budding romance with Kevin. When Fonda is finally introduced as the psychotic mother-in-law, she’s more irritating than a monster.
I really wanted to see Fonda and Lopez go to war in this film. I wanted to see the cat fights. I wanted to see the heinous acts they did on each other. But unlike a mother-in-law version of “The War of the Roses,” we’re given a softball conflict between two mildly distasteful women. Even this year’s racial comedy “Guess Who?” offered a little more meat when it came to conflicts between future in-laws.
Fonda is looking really, really old in this one, and Lopez plays the same part she did in films like “The Wedding Planner” and “Maid in Manhattan.” Still, with her diva status permeating headlines, it’s a bit hard to buy her as the poor, struggling girl with the heart of gold.
Avid “Alias” viewers will recognize Vartan as Agent Vaughn from the show. He’s also Jennifer Garner’s former main squeeze before she found herself in the arms of Ben Affleck. So, even behind the scenes, Vartan and Lopez at least had some common ground with famous exes.
Although my wife is a huge fan of Vartan, I’ve never thought him much of a leading man. He’s had his shot in movies, and he falls flat. Maybe it’s because he has the same messy hairstyle and same three-day growth of beard in everything he does. In “Monster-In-Law,” his surfer look just doesn’t click with his role as a successful surgeon. After all, if I’m on the operating table waiting to be sliced open, I don’t really want a doctor who looks like he just walked out of the surf.
Some might be tempted to call “Monster-In-Law” a romantic comedy. It is, to a certain degree. However, there’s a lot more of “Meet the Parents” in it than “When Harry Met Sally.” Most of the interaction – and most of the publicity – centers around Lopez and Fonda. Vartan is really just a moveable prop in the film. He’s only there to look pretty.
And that helps the movie to a certain degree. After all, the character of Kevin is just a weak-willed, wussy mamma’s boy. I don’t see what her attraction is except that Vartan looks really good with his shirt off, and he’s filthy rich. But then again, isn’t that how the real Jennifer Lopez determines the worth of a husband?
Sadly, the best lines in this film go to Wanda Sykes, who plays Viola’s assistant Ruby. I’ve never been a huge fan of Sykes, but she performs well in this film. It’s too bad she wasn’t better utilized. As it stands, she’s just a funny face to cut away to when tensions get too high.
Here’s the bottom line, guys. Take your girlfriends and wives to see it this weekend. At the very least, it’ll give you the leverage you’ll need to drag them to see “Star Wars” next week.