What a monstrosity!
What’s up with J. Lo’s obsession with marriage?
Two of Jennifer Lopez’s earlier movies, The Wedding Planner and Maid in Manhattan, and
now Monster-in-Law are concerned with idyllic unions. Even Enough, in which she played a bride who takes revenge on her abusive husband, began with a seemingly ideal marriage.
Is she working out her much-publicized relationship issues on film? Are these wish-fulfillment fantasies? Do we even care?
Lopez, like a handful of other actresses, was better early in her career. She displayed charisma in Selena and an ability to set off romantic sparks in Out of Sight. (Though the latter perhaps was more the doing of director Steven Soderbergh’s clever editing and co-star George Clooney’s undeniable charm.) As she has become a celebrity, Lopez has selected a succession of particularly insipid movies.
And then there’s Jane Fonda. After starring in such seminal films as Klute, Coming Home and On Golden Pond, why would she choose this formulaic clunker for her return to the big screen after a 15-year hiatus? Comedy was never her strong suit, but she gamely does the best she can with the clichéd part of the formidable mother of the groom. But the best and only funny lines go to Wanda Sykes, who plays Fonda’s put-upon assistant.
Lopez and Michael Vartan, who plays her fiancée, make a great-looking pair. Too bad they don’t exhibit one iota of chemistry. Not for a second do we believe they’re a couple or even that he and Fonda are mother and son. It’s as if the three were in separate movies and someone spliced them together. (Related items: Tune in for more Vartan | Watch the Monster-in-Law trailer)
The movie’s premise is clear from the title. Lopez and Vartan meet cute and fall in love. Then he introduces her to his controlling dynamo of a mom, a Barbara Walters-style celebrity journalist whose career is coming to a crashing halt. We see her interviewing a Britney Spears-type celeb, quite a comedown from her earlier interviews with presidents (four of whom came on to her, she brags).
But she’s intense. And she’s convinced that no one is good enough for her precious son. Especially not Lopez’s working-class Charlie, who, though she studied fashion design, has held a string of humdrum jobs such as dog walker and medical receptionist. Lopez is treacly sweet to Fonda and finally attempts some tepid revenge about two-thirds of the way through. But too late: We’ve lost interest.
Fonda tries to make the best of the kind of part that’s been going to Candice Bergen lately (Miss Congeniality, Sweet Home Alabama). But her heart isn’t in it.
Lopez’s performance is a notch less wooden than her trance-like portrayal in Shall We Dance or her laughably preposterous tough gal in Gigli. But that doesn’t make the movie worth watching - even if you’re monstrously bored.