Reviewed by: Josh Morrall

Monster-In-Law is a film that tastes sweet and is easy to swallow. With plenty of rom in this com, it's easy to be taken in by the simple characters and the simple plot. Of course, its simplicity and desire to be nothing but a mediocre and unimaginative film are Monster-In-Law's failings, although the return of Jane Fonda to the screen, as the monster Viola, after a 15-year absence and her chemistry with Wanda Sykes, as her long-suffering maid Ruby, puts the icing on a mostly flavourless, yet fulfilling, cake.

The story begins as Charlotte (Jennifer Lopez) and Kevin (Michael Vartan) meet for the first time. More screen time is spent on Charlotte's relationship with the dogs she walks than her love affair with Kevin, and thus the film's entire set-up is disappointingly flaccid. Very little happens between the two lovers, other than some mild groping, tickling and a wedding proposal. With such a weak bond, it seems completely unbelievable that Barbarella would not be capable of splitting them apart, yet the audience soon learns that Charlotte is willing to put more time into getting revenge on Viola than she is in her wedding preparations - such is the state of modern marriage.

Nonetheless, the warfare between Charlotte and Viola is enjoyable to behold, although it is not the situations that have the audience laughing so much as the actresses themselves: Viola falling unconscious into her dinner is a rib tickling cliche. Yet, it seems very possible that without Fonda in the role of the mother-in-law (she certainly deserves a title role) the comedy in the film could well have been lacking. Although she aids the comedic moments, it is Sykes who steals the show, more so than Elaine Stritch's cameo, which is not nearly as triumphant as director Robert Luketic thinks it is.

Sykes, who embodies a clone of the role she plays in Curb Your Enthusiasm, is a great background player, supporting the rest of the cast as they tackle the film's unchallenging dramatic moments. Ruby's dry humour and relationship with Viola keeps the pace moving, such is her comic capability in the hilarious "nut in the gravy" scene.

Whilst its comedy is successful, there is little else to add depth to the film. Luketic tries nothing new with the genre and the final scene, although admittedly quite touching, is an abrupt turnaround that reflects the shallow nature of the newly weds' relationship.

Monster-In-Law is far from perfect, but everyone involved puts in enough effort to make it an enjoyable 90 minutes. Simplistic, but sweet.

Reviewed on: 16 May 2005
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Monster-In-Law packshot
War breaks out between a bride-to-be and her prospective mother-in-law.
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Director: Robert Luketic

Writer: Anya Kochoff

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Jane Fonda, Michael Vartan, Wanda Sykes, Adam Scott, Annie Parisse, Monet Mazur, Elaine Stritch, Will Arnott

Year: 2005

Runtime: 102 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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