Lopez stars as Charlie, a temp worker who does everything from walking dogs to helping her best friends catering business to filling in as a receptionist in a medical office. Or was it a dentist office? I cant remember and it doesnt matter anyway. The point is shes a temp worker who seems a bit ditzy, acts too young for her age, and is unbelievably lucky in that she bumps into the same handsome, successful, single doctor (Vartan as Dr Kevin Fields) three separate times over the course of a few days.
Fonda returns to films as Viola Fields, the good doctors doting mom. Ms. Fields was a respected TV news anchor until she got the boot in order to make room for a newer, younger model. Viola took the news hard (she went ballistic and attacked a Britney Spears clone during her farewell interview) and ended up in a loony bin. After convincing the staff she was no longer a danger to pop stars, Viola was allowed to return home in the care of her longtime assistant, Ruby (Wanda Sykes).
The now unemployed Viola finds she has plenty of time on her hands to manipulate her son. Meanwhile, said son decides to after a short, whirlwind romance ask Charlie for her hand in marriage. Viola doesnt take the news well and immediately embarks on a campaign to tear the two apart. No bad deed is off limits in Violas quest to rid her son of Charlie. From keeping Charlie up all night by talking her ear off to usurping all the wedding planning duties to chopping up nuts to make the allergic Charlie swell up like SpongeBob, Viola gets the monster-in-law label the hard way she earns it.
More amazing than the fact J-Lo seems to keep getting cast in this type of role is the fact Jane Fonda came out of retirement to star in this dull piece of fluff. Theres nothing appealing about either character and nothing special about the dialogue, so its hard to figure out why Fonda felt this would make a good comeback film.
In all fairness to Jennifer Lopez, her acting may be worse than usual because shes asked to play such a badly defined character. After convincing the audience shes a sweet, albeit naïve, young woman, she suddenly transforms into Viola Jr, taking on her future mother-in-law and dishing out as good as she gets. Which is an interesting switch, if it would have in any way seemed like it was in her character's make-up. Whether shes playing it as the victim or the aggressor, Lopez just cant hold her own against an over-the-top Fonda and what might have looked liked comical exchanges between the two on page, end up being just plain nasty in the movie.
The only real saving grace is Wanda Sykes. Its almost worth sitting through the Fonda vs. Lopez scenes just to watch Sykes work with Fonda. The two are great together. In fact, their shared scenes make you wish their relationship was the central focus of the film rather than the lets kill the future daughter-in-law storyline.
Michael Vartans apparently in Monster-in-Law to serve as eye candy. As the man at the center of the storm, Alias co-star Vartans talent is completely wasted. He was terrific as Drew Barrymores love interest in Never Been Kissed and has proven he can handle the part of the adorable boyfriend. But hes barely in the film before hes sent off to a doctors convention or some sort of set-up to allow Fonda and Lopez characters time alone together.
Its possible theres a good comedy buried somewhere in the premise of the film, but what ended up on the screen is more unpleasant than funny. I may have laughed once or twice over the course of the film, but Im positive I uttered the phrase Give me a break more often than that.
"Monster-in-Law" was directed by Robert Luketic and is rated PG -13 for sex references and language.