Reviewed by GREG KING.
The embarrassing and awkward first visit to seek the approval from future in-laws has proven a gold mine for film makers recently, with the hilarious Meet The Parents and its equally funny sequel Meet The Fockers, and even the dire Guess Who?, the loose remake of the classic Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? all exploring this similar premise with varying degrees of effectiveness. Monster-in-Law, the new romantic comedy from Aussie director Robert Luketic, again taps into this rich material for an engaging and broadly appealing comedy. Luketic first gained attention with his short film Titsiana Booberini, and has since carved out a niche for himself as a competent director of bright, pacy and enormously popular lightweight romantic comedies in Hollywood (Legally Blonde, etc).
The film also heralds the return to the screen of dual Oscar winner Jane Fonda after a fifteen-year hiatus, and she is still fantastic. Fonda plays Viola Fields, a celebrity television talk show host who has just been ditched by the network in its chase for a younger demographic, and she undergoes a minor breakdown as a result. While she is recovering, Viola learns that her beloved only son Kevin (Michael Vartan, from One Hour Photo, etc) announces his engagement to Charlotte (Jennifer Lopez, from Out Of Sight, The Wedding Planner, etc). Believing that Charlotte, who is a temporary receptionist and part time dog walker is beneath Kevin, a successful surgeon, Viola sets out to sabotage the relationship. When Charlotte learns of Viola’s deceptions she fights back, with some quite amusing results.
Luketic always seems to get the best out his female stars. He is able to restrain the normally insufferable Lopez, who does some of her best work here for quite some time, and she demonstrates a subtle touch that has been missing from some of her previous performances. Fonda’s forays into comedy have been few (Fun With Dick And Jane, Nine To Five, etc), but she throws herself into her role as the devious, scheming and neurotic Viola with enthusiasm, and is a delight to watch. But it is former stand-up comic Wanda Sykes who almost steals the film, with an ebullient performance as Ruby, Viola’s wise-cracking, sassy, but long-suffering aide.
Monster-In-Law is another bright and breezy triumph for Luketic. There are some moments that suggest that Monster-In-Law is veering away from slapstick into darker territory, but then Luketic and former tv sitcom writer Anya Kochoff pull back into the safer, broader style of comedy that will delight audiences.