MONSTER-IN-LAW (Robert Luketic, 2005)

Sixty-something television star/anchor Viola Fields has just been sacked. While interviewing bubble-brained pop-youth personified, a Britney Spears-facsimile, Viola strikes a blow against ageism by imagining herself leaping onto this guest and throttling her—perhaps the funniest moment in Monster-in-Law, an amiable satirical farce which Robert Luketic directed from a script by Anya Kochoff. A control-freak, Viola now has a new project with which to occupy her forced retirement: undermining and undoing—again as a generational protest—the impending marriage of her doctor-son, Kevin, to Charlotte Cantilini. It isn’t long before Viola and “Charlie,” without Kevin any the wiser, are locked in a battle of wits to see who can destroy whom first. All is headed, though, to the happy ending of the wedding and its reconciliations, which include Kevin and Charlie’s transcendence of their built-in social class disparity.
     There is no visual dimension whatsoever to Luketic’s film. Nor is the acting, with one spectacular exception, much. In particular, humorless Jennifer Lopez, although incredibly easy on the eyes, is a cipher as Charlie. But after a 15-year hiatus from cinema, still gorgeous Jane Fonda, as Viola, dazzles. Recall how hilarious Charles Chaplin is in City Lights and The Great Dictator? Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve? Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers in Monkey Business? Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot? Jane Fonda is now in their exalted comedic league. Moreover, her effortless likeability, even in such a role as this, helps give the matters of aging and ageism their proper due, from which a detestable villain, had Fonda gone that route, would have detracted. Once again, Fonda illuminates significant aspects of the human condition.
     Make of this what you will: Fonda has said she based her characterization on former spouse Ted Turner.

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