REVIEW: Monster-In-Law

Ladies and gentleman, the dog-race for the very worst movie of 2005 is on and “Monster-In-Law” has left the gate with such a tremendous lead that all the other dogs can see of it is a very, very tiny speck that kinda resembles a very, very awful movie. We’re doubtless to see many more bad films this year, (I’m looking at YOU, latest-Hillary-Duff-vehicle!,) but right now asking me if I can imagine that any of them will be worse than “Monster-In-Law” is going to produce the same reaction as asking a similar question of an immediate survivor of Chernobyl. This film is unfit for human consumption. It’s so bad that I’d worry about bringing copies of it too close to other films for fear that they may begin to suck merely from the exposure. It’s bad at a radioactive level. It belongs in a lead-lined vault buried somewhere near the Mantle, not in a multiplex where poor unsuspecting innocents might accidentally catch a glimpse of it.

What we’ve got here is an unofficial gender-flipped third sequel to “Meet the Parents”, with Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda in the Stiller and DeNiro roles. Lopez is playing Charlotte (“Charlie”,) The Greatest Human Being in The Known Universe: a working-class California gal who solves people’s problems, walks dogs, temps at a doctor’s office, coaches little-league, is a fine artist, a mega-talented designer of clothing, spends quality time with her genre-mandated Gay Best Friend and Snarky Semi-Punk Chick Best Friend and through it all always remains looking exactly like Jennifer Lopez at her music-video best. The prologue, where Charlie’s spaceship from the planet Krypton crashes just outside a small farm in Kansas, must have been cut for time and will hopefully pop up as an extra on the DVD.

15-year screen-absentee (and recent Skoal surprise free-sample recipient) Jane Fonda has the DeNiro role as Viola, the fabulously famous and wealthy veteran television hostess (not at all inspired by Barbara Walters) who just so happens to be both the mother of Kevin, the handsome doctor Charlie has just gotten engaged to, and a world-class harpy. Viola has just been forcibly-retired in favor of a younger model (because, as we all know, daytime television places NO special value on the older female demographic whatsoever. Yup, sure) thus unleashing booze-and-pills-fueled fury which we can only assume must have been there to begin with because, well… because she’s a rich showbiz divorcee’ and thats how rich showbiz divorcee’s “just are” in brainless, cliche-ridden romantic comedies.

Ahem. In any case, Viola despises Charlie immediately for no good reason. Oh, to be sure, there are little scene-to-scene throwaway jokes that suggests she’s too devoted to her son, or has a problem with Charlie’s lower-class status, or is even a bigot. Any of those, especially the bigotry angle, would make for a more interesting movie and maybe even some needed character-complexity, but c’mon… Interesting!? Complexity!!?? I mean, it IS a Jennifer Lopez movie, after all. So basically, Viola hates Charlie because it enables situations where the two actresses can yell at eachother because, apparently, we’ve all been waiting to see Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda have it out. Wait… you mean you haven’t been waiting your whole life to see Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda have it out?? What’s wrong with you!? We’ve all been waiting for this, the studio said so! Didn’t you get the memo?

So there’s your movie: Viola schemes to bust up the wedding the “kill her with kindness” way, and Charlie strikes back only to find that Viola’s ability to fight dirty is kinda considerable. Someone should’ve told her not to pick fights with anyone who’s ever “chilled” with the Viet Cong, lest you find they’ve picked up some combat tips during the stay. Ahem.

This is, without a doubt, just the most impossible-to-invest-interest-in “battle” this side of the Green Party Candidate nomination process. These two characters are vapid, empty ciphers, and the most below-average WWE storyline gives it’s combatants more definitive reasons to fight than this film can muster up. Charlie and Viola aren’t people, they’re “types.” The battle isn’t Charlie versus Viola or even Lopez versus Fonda, it’s Rich Career Woman versus Earthy Confident Latina; when they finally come to blows late in the final act, one half expects the loser’s head to pop off “Rockem-Sockem-Robots”-style.

The only person in the film with less going on than Charlie and Viola is Kevin, who typifies the romantic comedy genre’s complete and utter disdain for men: What does he think about the situation? About anything? We don’t know, because the movie doesn’t care. He’s veiwed entirely as the sum of his two-word character description of “Handsome Doctor,” seems entirely unaware of the raging hatred between the women in his life and entirely powerless to do anything about it. Surely, since Viola is such an obsessively doting mother, a single stern word from him could end the ridiculous “war,” but he’s never once clued-in on any of the shenanigans. It would, you see, be highly un-P.C. to let the husband-to-be have anything to do with resolving the problem as it would deprive us of the chance to revel in the glow of the “strong, self-assured women” in the leads. Oh, it might also actually be funny, too.

And thats the biggest problem: There’s no romance or comedy in this romantic comedy. It’s just weak comebacks and retorts between unlikable leads played by (mostly) unlikable actresses. Most comedies want their audiences to laugh, “Monster-In-Law” merely wants the vile crossection of “humanity” for whom “J-Lo” serves as some kind of role-model to recline back in their seats and spout Pavolian “Mmmmm HM!’s” and “you GO GIRL!’s” whenever she finishes what passes for a line.

“Monster-In-Law” isn’t funny, it isn’t nice to look at, it’s not engaging and has not a single noteworthy moment of decent filmmaking. This is not a movie, this is an open wound on the skin of moviemaking. It’s rotten. It’s diseased. It’s toxic. Avoid this movie like you’d avoid a rabid bear or a paroled serial-rapist. Avoid it like you’d avoid a one-way airline ticket to Iraq. On a Valuejet plane. With the phrase “The Prophet Was A Girlie-Man” painted on it’s wings.


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