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Monster-in-Law (2005)

She met the perfect man. Then she met his mother.

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 0 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12a

Mother-in-law jokes! Will the comedy world never tire of them? From “I’m not saying my mother-in-law’s ugly, but she uses her bottom lip as a shower cap” to “I haven’t spoken to my mother-in-law for 18 months – I don’t like to interrupt her”, it’s the universal brand of gag that many a stand-up has fallen back on at one point or another. But can turning that one lone variety of joke into an entire movie really be a good idea? One thing’s for sure: if ‘Monster-In-Law’ had been made just a few years earlier, I’d have been swearing it was secretly written by Bob Monkhouse.

The “monster” in question here is Viola Fields, a fallen chat show queen played by Jane Fonda, making her first big screen appearance since ‘Stanley & Iris’ way back in 1990. Much to her never-quite-explained chagrin, she’s soon to become mum-in-law to Charlotte (Jennifer Lopez), a sweet, unassuming dog-walker girl who’s fallen head-over-booty in love with son Kevin (forgettable rent-a-hunk Michael Vartan). So, with the clock counting down to the big wedding day, Viola decides to do all in her power to drive Chazza round-the-bend – or, in fact, anywhere that’s not in the direction of her charmless pride and joy.

Directed by Legally Blonde and Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! helmsman Robert Luketic and written by the unknown Anya Kochoff, it’s all pretty much as uninspired as it sounds. Think a sort of reverse Meet the Parents, only minus the strong comic performances and decent ideas. Having said that though, I did laugh-out-loud on a couple of occasions, thanks largely to some outright mindless ‘Bottom’-style slapstick humour. Let’s face it – you could sit down for months on end trying to think up funny lines for Fonda and The Lo to say to one another, but simply having them repeatedly hit each other with fists and frying pans is much easier and, in this case, much more amusing.

For the most part it held my attention (at least, in a one-eye-open sort of way) and it’s good to see a renowned old stager like Fonda back in business. But you have to wonder: over the course of the last 15 years, could this really have been the best offer she received?

It's Got: A predictably soppy end-of-film speech.

It Needs: To carry on just that little bit further down the slapstick route – it’s certainly funnier than any of the largely witless dialogue.


It’s not as bad as you might expect, but it’s just not monstrous enough.