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May 18, 2005

"Monster-in-Law" a gentle surprise

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor
I was a little leery walking into "Monster-in-Law" this past weekend. I assumed that Jennifer Lopez plus Jane Fonda had to equal a snoozefest or chick flick (or both). However, much to my surprise, I caught myself laughing out loud to a film that's worth the $14 it costs to see a movie these days.

Kevin (Michael Vartan), a surgeon, meets girl-next-door Charlotte (played by Lopez) and falls in love with her. The romance at the beginning is quite syrupy, but the humor kicks in full force when Kevin takes Charlotte home to meet his mom, TV personality Viola Fields (Fonda). Kevin believes that the two ladies are getting along nicely, but the jealous Viola immediately takes a disliking to Charlotte. She secretly concocts a hilarious plot to force the couple to call off their wedding.

Fonda plays the jealous, scheming mother role incredibly well. She is able to be over-the-top in her conniving ways to usurp Charlotte, but remains vulnerable at the same time. It's a fine line to walk, and Fonda walks it comfortably and confidently. Though Fonda and Lopez are both funny, the lady who steals the movie is the ever-impeccable Wanda Sykes, who plays Viola's assistant Ruby. Sykes has a made a career for herself playing the wise-talking sidekick ("Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Down to Earth"), and she does it brilliantly in this film.

The better part of "Monster-in-Law" is comprised of knee-slapping one-liners and gags where both women plot against each other behind Kevin's back with increasing ferocity. To better get an idea of the movie, imagine "Meet The Parents" but with a gender reversal. Vartan is almost an afterthought to Fonda, Lopez and even Sykes. He plays the good-guy spouse, and is pretty much there because someone has to be Viola's son.

It's nice to see Jane Fonda get work on something other than a Vietnamese tanker these days. And she couldn't have picked a funnier movie in which to make her comeback. If you like laughing, then chances are you'll enjoy "Monster-in-Law."

"Monster-in-Law" (102 minutes) is rated PG-13 for sex references and language.



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