‘Monster-in-Law’ (2005) Review

Charlie is an aspiring artist who works multiple jobs to get by and hasn’t had too much luck in the love department. That is, until she meets Kevin. He’s handsome and a doctor and is instantly smitten with Charlie too. Their relationship is something of a whirlwind and soon Kevin takes Charlie to meet his mother, Viola.

Viola is a former newscaster/talk show host recently replaced by a younger woman, an event that led Viola to having a meltdown on air. She doesn’t seem to mind Charlie at first, but when Kevin proposes to Charlie, Viola decides to do whatever she can to break up the happy couple.

This was my first watch of Monster-in-Law, though I’m not entirely sure what took me so long to finally sit down and give it a go. Anyway, I have to say that I love Jane Fonda. She’s so good at whatever she does and she plays a delightfully unhinged Viola with gusto. I understand that in 2005, Jennifer Lopez was The Big Thing but this is Fonda’s movie through and through. She has insane chemistry with every person she shares a screen with, especially Wanda Sykes, who plays her long-suffering assistant, Ruby. I would have gladly watched two hours of those two getting in and out of shenanigans.

Jennifer Lopez is adorable here, but very subdued as the kindly Charlie, almost to a fault. She only gets truly interesting when she decides to fight fire with fire to try and beat Viola at her own game. Watching Lopez and Fonda go head to head is pretty fun and is the highlight of the movie for me (besides the Fonda/Sykes dynamic).

Sadly, what bogs this movie down is Michael Vartan as Kevin. Kevin falls victim to one of the genre’s biggest problems – the bland boyfriend. Kevin is just so bland. There’s nothing interesting about him beyond his mother and I can’t figure out if that’s because of how Kevin is written, or because of how Vartan plays it.

The movie also suffers from the biggest rom-com dilemma of all…. a lack of chemistry between its two leads. Lopez and Vartan have none of it, which really stinks because the movie could have been great instead of just good had they really connected on screen. But one could argue that Monster-in-Law is about Charlie and Viola more than Charlie and Kevin, which I can agree with, considering the title of the film. But in order for an audience to care about who comes out on top – Charlie or Viola – they have to care about the relationship, right? They have to root for the couple to get down the aisle, despite Viola’s crazy antics.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really care about the wedding itself. Just that Viola got some comeuppance. Thankfully that comes in the form of Elaine Stritch, who is quite brilliant in the short amount of screen time she’s given.  Monster-in-Law is a decent enough rom-com, though it’s worth watching more for Fonda than anything else. So go ahead and give it a go.

Author: Romona Comet

"I'm probably watching a rom-com right now."