STUDIO: New Line
MSRP: $28.98
RUNNING TIME: 100 Minutes
• Commentary with director Robert Luketic, Wanda Sykes, producer Chris Bender, production designer Missy Stewart and director of photography Russell Carpenter
• "Welcome Back, Jane Fonda!" featurette
• "Keeping it Real with Jennifer" featurette
• "Vartan, the Man!" featurette
• "Robert Luketic – The Man Behind the Monster"
• "Trendsetters" two-part featurette on lifestyles and fashion
• Gag Reel
• Deleted scenes with director introduction
• "Ruby’s Make-up Bag"
• Teaser and theatrical trailers

As I take a look at this thing that is Monster-in-Law, I’m left wondering several things:

1. Jane Fonda’s won two Oscars, right? So who told her that this movie was the best way to revive her career after a 15-year layoff?
2. Who told J.Lo that yet another romantic comedy is the way to revive her flagging career?
3. Is Michael Vartan still available?

In order to cut down on production costs, the filmmakers simply shot footage of J.Lo’s most recent wedding…

The Flick

Okay, let’s get one point clear right off the bat: the only people who are even going to give a shit about this review are the New Line Home Video publicity department, Anya Kochoff, the writer who got her break on this film and who has probably snatched up every review of it printed on the planet, and Leah Amir, the lady who did the craft service – simply because I took the time to look her up in the credits and put her name down for shits and giggles. Other than that, I’m betting nada. So we’re going to dispense with any kind of in-depth thinking on this piece, because I have no doubt that it’ll be forgotten 28 seconds after it goes up on the site, and I can only hope I’ll remember it long enough to put it up on the site….

Bad Fonda comeback choice #1: Bukakke film…

Continuing her string of recent films that have either not performed well or not been reviewed well (frequently both), J.Lo stars as Charlie Cantilini, a fairly aimless yet nice young woman who holds down several jobs including walking dogs, temping, yoga instructing and helping her friend out catering. After a few encounters with the handsome and seemingly unattainable Dr. Kevin Fields (Vartan), including a starefest at his slo-mo shirtless bod on the beach, a shy “hey, how you doing?” at Starbucks and a run-in while catering his party, Charlie finds herself being asked out by him and pretty quickly in a relationship with him. Meanwhile, Kevin’s mother, the rich and successful TV personality Viola (Hanoi Jane), has just found out that she’s been traded in for a newer model and consequently attacked a Britney Spears knockoff on screen as a result. Once she gets out of therapy, she looks forward to spending time with her son, only to be flabbergasted when he asks Charlie to marry him right in front of her the first day she meets her.

Mmmm, Vartan flesh…

Feeling that Charlie is simply unacceptable for her little boy, Viola vows to split them up before the big day and seemingly orders a book of dirty tricks from Amazon because she pulls out all the stops to get on Charlie’s every last nerve. Like a great drama, Viola starts small and builds, making a snide comment here, a backhanded compliment there. Then she progresses to making Charlie feel out of place by throwing a huge party with world-class illuminati, and inviting Kevin’s ex (Monet Mazur) along for the ride. When that doesn’t work, Viola tries to push Charlie’s buttons by insinuating herself into the wedding, vowing to plan every detail, whether Charlie wants her to or not. When Charlie tries to put her foot down, Viola throws on an anxiety attack and uses the opportunity to guilt trip her way into staying with Kevin and Charlie. That’s when she really puts the screws to Charlie.

"Damn that Angelina! Brad could’ve been hubby #23!"

Her antics include pressing the anxiety bit and popping fake pills to stay calm, talking continuously while Charlie’s trying to watch TV, keeping Charlie up all night with neediness, cooking food that is designed to make her heave and then leaving her to clean up. She then tells Charlie that she’s thinking of moving in just two doors down from them. It’s not long before an exhausted and frazzled Charlie is wondering whether or not she’s going to be able to survive the experience. Meanwhile Kevin is blissfully ignorant of the entire situation. But when Charlie finds out the whole thing is a put on, she turns the tables on Viola somewhat amusingly and war is suddenly declared between the two. Ammo used include nuts in gravy (to which Charlie is allergic), Charlie inviting the phony therapist that Viola used to convince Kevin that Viola needed him in her life as much as possible to the rehearsal dinner, Viola ingratiating herself to Charlie’s friends, and Charlie making Viola her maid of honor and saddling her with a hideous dress, among other things. Finally the two have a showdown right before the wedding and when Viola’s old crony mother-in-law (Elaine Stritch) shows up, things come to a head when Charlie makes a fateful decision and it’s up to Viola to set things right.

Bad Fonda comeback choice #2: Green Arrow in therapy Lifetime movie…

It’s not so much that this movie sucks hard, it’s just that it’s so painfully pedestrian – not only as a movie but even as a romantic comedy. J.Lo’s been hanging around the rom-com way too much lately and she’s heading into bad Meg Ryan territory. I myself had a bad J.Lo theatrical experience when I went into Angel Eyes thinking it was going to be a suspense thriller due to the marketing campaign, and I was left with a sappy love story with a guy named “Catch” who couldn’t get a grip. And in the crowded field of romantic comedies, Monster-in-Law’s story stood out about as much as Waldo does. I pretty much despised The Wedding Planner and this movie doesn’t even measure up to that one. I’m surprised that this is the best project that Fonda could find after a decade-and-a-half of Ted-lovin’ in Hotlanta. I’ve never really followed her career, but considering that she’s bagged a couple of Oscars and also once broke the Orgazmatron, you gotta figure she’s more talented than what she’s given here.

Most unexpected plot twist? Doggy porn…

As for Michael Vartan, I dig his work on Alias; but he’s given practically nothing to do in this movie beyond the first act. If comparing his character to Matthew McConaughey’s in Planner, at least McConaughey was an active participant in the resolution of that movie’s storyline. Here, Vartan is completely oblivious to the goings-on between Fonda and Lopez and his character is damn near an afterthought for the last hour of the movie. The person that really stands out in Monster-In-Law, though is Wanda Sykes as Viola’s sassy assistant, Ruby. She’s gives many of the sharp criticism that she’s known for on the comedy stage but doesn’t let it run wild and keeps the character dialed down, although she did get some good ad libs in here and there.

"Okay, so after I dump Mark, should I hook up with Vartan here or go after some new meat?"

Everybody has bagged on Lopez because of the whole “Bennifer” holocaust, the four hundred marriages and the music career that has gone south faster than the movie career. Personally I keep hoping to see just glimpses of what grabbed me about Lopez in Out of Sight. Hell even her character in Money Train had more meat to it. Charlie is a very likeable character here but pretty much a carbon copy of the one she played in Planner. She can essentially play Charlie in her sleep. I can think of nothing that she brought to this role that Sandra Bullock or Kate Hudson couldn’t have stepped right in and picked up without losing a step. Lopez needs to start pursuing roles that offer her the opportunity to stretch. My best advice is to get back in the Soderbergh clique and just wait for the good roles to come in. Till then, put the romantic comedy to bed for at least the next couple of years.

5.0 out of 10

Bad Fonda comeback choice #3: Gunga Din cocktail party flick…

The Look

The movie itself is fine. Director of Photography Russell Carpenter has lensed some fantastic-looking films, including True Lies, Titanic and Critters 2: The Main Course (okay I threw that last one in there for a cheap laugh, but he did shoot the thing). Much of this film is interiors and he also could have done this movie in his sleep, so it looks good. The film is offered in both widescreen and TV shit-screen. I didn’t bother with the latter of course.

7.6 out of 10

The Noise

There’s not much in the way of audio gymnastics going on in this movie, but it is presented in either Dolby 5.1 or Dolby Stereo Surround.

7.4 out of 10

The Goodies

Commentary with director Robert Luketic, Wanda Sykes, producer Chris Bender, production designer Missy Stewart and director of photography Russell Carpenter. This wasn’t a particularly stirring piece, but at least director Robert Luketic brought Sykes in to bounce some dialogue off of. Bender, Carpenter and Stewart also get their two cents worth in, if anyone cares.

"Hmm, want ads…"

Welcome Back, Jane Fonda!, Keeping it Real with Jennifer, Vartan, the Man!, Robert Luketic – The Man Behind the Monster, Trendsetters: a two-part featurette on lifestyles and fashion featurettes. These are your boilerplate making-ofs that focus on the people more so than the production of the movie itself and they average around seven or eight minutes. They’re pretty standard and fairly well-made. Although it’s a little surprising to see that with star wattage like Fonda and Lopez, the longest feature by far is the one on director Luketic. Another thing that any astute judge of the ironic would find is that, first this movie is starring the exes of both Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck, who are now married with kid pending. Secondly, Affleck and Vartan are both big poker players. Coincidence? Maybe….

Gag Reel – five minutes of guffaws.

Deleted scenes with director introduction – There’s nearly twelve minutes of deleted scenes, some of which I actually think would have added a bit to the story. Not much but a little.

Ruby’s Make-up Bag – this was a separate 90-second gag of Wanda Sykes getting’ jiggy with the Britney knock-off’s background dancers.

Teaser and theatrical trailers

Surprising amount of goodies on this 2-disc set. If you do happen to like the movie, there’s plenty here to keep you busy after you’re done watching it.

7.7 out of 10

The Artwork

It’s spiffy, no?

5.6 out of 10

Overall: 6.6 out of 10