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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8.93%
Worth A Look: 8.93%
Just Average: 5.36%
Pretty Crappy: 21.43%

4 reviews, 32 user ratings

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by Peter Sobczynski

"Like 'Letter to Jane' without the warmth or whimsy"
1 stars

Even though the last few months have not exactly presented us with a bumper crop of films that will live on in the pantheon, the sheer cruddiness of the new comedy “Monster-In-Law” is still a bit startling to behold. It is a loud and obnoxious attempt at farcical black comedy that contains neither the wit or timing required for the former nor the nerve or intelligence needed for the latter. The result is an especially dumb sitcom that would barely pass muster as one of those made-for-TV movies that generally star washed-up soap actors and premiere on cable channels that no one seems to have ever heard of, let alone receive as part of their package. And yet, the screenplay (to trash a perfectly good word) somehow managed to attract the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda–the latter was apparently so impressed that she chose it as her return to the big screen after fifteen years of semi-retirement. Why they considered it to be worthy of their talents is a question that I cannot begin to answer, though the phrase “mass hypnosis” does spring to mind.

Lopez stars as Charlie, an adorable free student who works as a temp and as a dog walker in order to pursue her dream of being an artist. (She must be one hell of a temp to afford the ginormous apartment that she lives in, complete with a lovely view, plenty of closet space and a walk-in wacky neighbor or two.) One day at the beach, she spies a gummy, oily lunk jogging and finds herself instantly attracted to him. The dope is Kevin (Michael Vartan), a fabulously rich and eligible doctor. They meet again at a party she is working at and the attraction is mutual. Of course, Charlie now fears that he is only interested in certain parts of her and pulls that tiresome stunt where she closes her eyes and asks him what color they are. His response is so minutely and obsessively detailed that it makes him seem like a creepy stalker. Nevertheless, Charlie is still charmed by this and they eventually become a couple.

Six months later, Kevin brings Charlie to meet his mother, the awesomely famous and respected talk show host Viola Fields (Fonda). Unfortunately, because Kevin is kind of a jerk, her has failed to mention to Charlie that Viola has just recovered from a nervous breakdown six months earlier when she was replaced on her show by a bubbly bimbo and is one of those wildly possessive mothers who call four times a day before lunchtime. He has also apparently failed to mention anything to Viola about the woman he has been dating for the last six months. And because he is a colossally insensitive jerk, he chooses this moment, already stressful enough under the best of circumstances, to propose to Charlie right in front of Mom, who is convinced that Charlie must be pregnant and immediately begins recommending abortion clinics.

Viola is, of course, appalled that her son would want to marry a woman like Charlie but the film never quite gets around to explaining what her objections are. It can’t be that she doesn’t want her son to marry anyone because she immediately contacts an ex-girlfriend of his to break up the happy couple. It can’t be that Charlie gets on her bad side because Viola flips out on her before she can even get a chance to offend her. There are suggestions that her objections may be based on issues of class and/or race but the film doesn’t have the guts to come out and say that for fear of possibly offending sensitive audience members. The real reason, of course, is that if she doesn’t object, there is no movie–though one could plausibly argue that even with the objections, there is much of a movie.

In a desperate effort to get rid of Charlie, Viola sets off on a systematic campaign to drive her crazy. She fakes an illness that requires her to move in with the couple just as that jerk Kevin jets off to a medical conference. There, she feeds Charlie inedible food, keeps her up all night with faux-night terrors (complete with “accidental” punches to the face), constantly interrupts her as she tries to watch “A Nightmare on Elm Street” on television and tries to poison her by lacing the gravy with the almonds that she knows the allergic Charlie can’t eat. When Charlie finally catches on, she returns fire by allowing her dogs to chew up Viola’s things, supplying a matron-of-honor dress that is actually uglier than the norm and tops things off by drugging her wine in order to get a good night’s sleep. After Viola’s last, cruelest trick (on the wedding day, no less), Charlie finally gives in and gets ready to flee. Having achieved the dream that she has been working for throughout, Viola takes all of five seconds to cave in with a change-of-heart so everyone can live happily ever after. Not since Coily the Spring answered that doughy guy’s dream of a world without springs has someone folded so quickly after achieving their diabolical goals. (Kevin, by the way, doesn’t notice any of this stuff and just stays on the side like the dope that he is.)

“Monster-in-Law” fails on so many levels that it is difficult to even know where to start. To begin with, it simply isn’t funny–the jokes are an uneasy blend of cutesy slapstick and outright cruelty that co-exist so uneasily that I got the sense that the screenplay once existed in a much darker form that was subsequently “improved” by helping hands who wanted things to be more in the vein of “Meet the Parents” (which was itself a much-lightened version of a darker original vision). None of the characters are particularly interesting or amusing–the only potentially likable one is Charlie and that doesn’t quite come off because Lopez’s attempts at portraying a simple girl of the streets come off as absurd. Even on a simple visual level, the film is amazingly garish and ugly, as if all the sets were painted with colors purchased at a remainder store–it takes an inordinate amount of intestinal fortitude just to simply look at it for more than a few minutes at a time.

The most disappointing aspect of the film is, ironically enough, the very same thing that has earned it so much publicity–the presence of Jane Fonda. During her heyday as an actress in the 1970's, she not only demonstrated herself to be one of the most gifted performers of that but also showed a canny ability (both as a performer and producer) to make films that spoke to the social concerns of the time while still succeeding on an artistic level. However, the majority of those successful roles have been in serious-minded dramas while comedy has remained something that she has never quite been comfortable with. Therefore, it is all the more inexplicable to discover that she would choose to make a comeback in the kind of vehicle that seems to have been designed solely to highlight her weaknesses–her work is broad, shrill and schticky while never generating a single laugh as far as I can recall. Perhaps she read the screenplay and figured that since it didn’t contain anything amusing of note, she shouldn’t consider it a comedy in the first place.

Her decision is even more perplexing when you consider all of the deeply embarrassing things that her character is forced to endure. Throughout the film, her character is smacked upside the head with a frying pan, punched and slapped in the face repeatedly, drugged and dropped face-first into a plate of tripe and, most horrifying of all, is forced to perform a heart-to-heart scene opposite Jennifer Lopez. She is treated so harshly, in fact, that while one Anya Kochoff is credited with the screenplay, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to discover that the name was a pseudonym for a group of former P.O.W.’s.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12182&reviewer=389
originally posted: 05/13/05 00:29:04
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User Comments

1/02/19 Jamie I love this movie-Jane is fantastic.She makes it look so easy-totally underrated performanc 5 stars
5/14/11 art J.LO"S ASS is the only good point! 1 stars
11/20/08 Shaun Wallner This movie was stupid! 1 stars
1/26/07 alice no comment 2 stars
8/04/06 drydock54321 fun movie 4 stars
5/08/06 Carol Baker You got to watch comedies. You don't know what'll you get. 3 stars
3/19/06 Agent Sands Loved it! 1st 15 minutes are shit, but then it's a romantic comedy version of Apt Pupil! 4 stars
1/25/06 LP Quagmire One of the year's ten best! 5 stars
1/03/06 Anthony Feor Jennifer should have realized she's not cut out for acting after Gili 1 stars
12/24/05 Melissa Araya It was good. Timing could have been better and it was like other movies but it was good. 4 stars
12/04/05 cody a romantic comedy ok, but laughs were few to none, what is up jane fonda! 2 stars
10/26/05 malcolm funnier than i expected, but still just standard rom-com fare 3 stars
10/16/05 M JLO should stick to perfume making, Fonda & Sykes excellent! 4 stars
10/16/05 Jesse Taylor Very funny, good comeback for Jane Fonda 4 stars
9/21/05 laura excellnt, funny 5 stars
9/18/05 Jonathon Holmes waste of time 1 stars
9/09/05 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne (Charlie says she has 2 asses, LOL!) INCONVENIENT, should she ever have to shit with both at the same time, LOL! 3 stars
8/23/05 Noah Worst Movie Ever 1 stars
8/10/05 ES 4 movie feature at the drive-in, this was number two, sin city was last, how sad 2 stars
7/27/05 Christian Mediocre at best 2 stars
7/26/05 Ivy Great Movie! 5 stars
7/25/05 Eric Rollins On Golden Girls, makes you miss Gili 1 stars
6/18/05 Nicole What a surprise - another crappy J Lo movie 1 stars
6/12/05 Lowgere Saw it as 2nd feature in drive-in, it drove us out! 1 stars
6/06/05 Helen Bradley Great entertainment thoroughly enjoyable 5 stars
5/28/05 crock poor jane fonda. 1 stars
5/23/05 gray suuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked! 1 stars
5/20/05 Christy Schultz Wanda is the only redeeming quality 2 stars
5/17/05 Todd Dear God: Please kill J-Lo, or at least make her go back to Mexico. 1 stars
5/15/05 Jeff Anderson A real letdown & depressing to watch, visually. Wanda Sykes delivers the only real laughs. 2 stars
5/14/05 Enlarged Left Testicle Jane Fonda is still alive?! 1 stars
5/13/05 Sgt Slaughter J-Lo SUCKS. Fonda is a POS. This movie is a good combo of the 2. 1 stars
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  13-May-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 30-Aug-2005



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