I had no idea that Jane Fonda had stopped acting for fifteen years before the release of Monster-in-Law. That makes it pretty depressing now when you think about it. She's a legend who comes back to star in what seem like at first glance such a dimwitted romantic comedy? I guess it's an easy way to ease her way back in because really, fifteen years is a long time to not be acting.
Jane Fonda actually doesn't do that bad of a job in what is a pretty run-of-the-mill affair. The script for Monster-in-Law is far from brilliant but she makes do with what she has to make a couple of amusing moments. It does help that she's alongside Jennifer Lopez who doesn't really make a very good case for herself here. She comes off as very blank and was even nominated for a Razzy for her efforts. I guess the best way to look at Monster-in-Law is a lost opportunity. A faceoff between JLo and Jane Fonda doesn't sound that dumb if you really think about it.
Charlotte 'Charlie' Cantilini (Jennifer Lopez) is a woman who tries everything. She works as a dog walker, a doctor's office receptionist, a catering waitress, she designs fashion on the side while trying to find opportunities there and she's done lots more in the past. Her friends Remy (Adam Scott) and Morgan (Annie Parisse) want her to find that perfect guy though and Charlie just happens to do so while walking some dogs on the beach. Before she knows it she's moved in with Kevin Fields (Michael Vartan) and things are going great. That's until Viola Fields, the mother of Kevin (Jane Fonda) enters the picture.
Viola Fields is a nut case, pure and simple. Jane Fonda really does the absolute best she can with what the script calls for and that's admirable. Her character's love for her son reaches perhaps an uncomfortable level but there are honestly some funny moments with her. That's really all Monster-in-Law is able to offer though. A couple of laughs coupled with some pretty embarrassing stuff Fonda has to go through. Wanda Sykes as her assistant is actually not half bad either now that I think about it.
Everything that involves Charlie Cantilini is where Monster-in-Law is like every other subpar romantic comedy ever made. She is somehow able to afford a beautiful house despite just doing the odd temporary job. What kills me too is that nothing about Charlie is really developed at all. The whole fashion design thing? There's mention of it a couple of times and then never again. Her invasive guy friend Remy is conveniently gay but at least he doesn't get a lot of screen time because I'm sick of token gay friends.
Charlie sees Kevin for the first time in a typical forced rom-com way. She stares at him running on the beach just after having read about finding love in a horoscope. She then sees him again at a coffee shop and then again at a party! This culminates in an unintentional awkward/creepy party stalking scene which ends up with Charlie embarrassing herself which in turn endears her to Kevin. Kevin is boring and 2D with hardly anything interesting about him. He's a doctor and he's rich with a rich mother. That pretty much sums him up. He's also a mega wimp who's unable to see the kind of damage his mother is causing to his and Charlie's relationship.
That's not to mention actually proposing to Charlie in front of his goddamn mother! Who could ever take that seriously?
The whole point of Monster-in-Law is to pit Jane Fonda against Jennifer Lopez. The romantic aspect of this movie is decidedly weak and undeveloped anyhow. Does Fonda vs. Lopez deliver? It's either too obvious about the whole thing or it just falls flat on its face with only a couple of successful right hooks from Jane Fonda. It doesn't live up to what it could be and tt's just one big fat waste.
With lots of usual romantic comedy filler, M-i-L doesn't have the writing to make a good confrontation movie between JLo and Jane Fonda. Lopez is clearly being propped up by Jane Fonda and deserves the criticism she got for her acting. She's as flat as roadkill while Fonda turns up the theatrics. It doesn't look like Fonda has lost much of a step in terms of her acting which is nice to see all the same. In the end, Monster-in-Law is same old same old.