Monster-in-Law is a 2005 romantic comedy film directed by Robert Luketic, written by Anya Kochoff and starring Jane Fonda, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Vartan and Wanda Sykes. It marked a return to cinema for Fonda, being her first film since Stanley & Iris in 1990. The film was negatively received by critics who praised Fonda but panned Lopez and the screenplay. Monster-in-Law was a box office success, grossing $154 million on a $43 million budget.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Luketic|
|Written by||Anya Kochoff|
|Box office||$154.7 million|
Charlie Cantilini (Jennifer Lopez) is a temp/dog walker/yoga instructor and aspiring fashion designer from Venice Beach, California, who meets doctor Kevin Fields (Michael Vartan). She thinks he is gay at first, based on a lie Kevin's former girlfriend Fiona (Monet Mazur) told her. But then Kevin asks her out, and Charlie believes that she has finally found the right man.
Things start to go wrong when Kevin introduces Charlie to his mother, Viola Fields (Jane Fonda). Viola is a former newscaster, who has recently been replaced by a younger woman, and is in the midst of a meltdown. Loathing Charlie from the outset, Viola becomes even more distraught when Kevin proposes to Charlie. Fearing that she will lose her son the same way she lost her career, she sets out to ruin Kevin and Charlie's relationship. With Ruby (Wanda Sykes), her assistant, she tries everything possible to drive Charlie away.
Charlie eventually catches on to Viola's plan and fights back. On Charlie's wedding day, Viola turns up wearing a white dress instead of the peach-colored dress specially made for her. This leads to a violent stand off between the two, leading with Viola refusing to accept Charlie and states she'll never be good enough for Kevin. Suddenly, Viola's own dreadful mother-in-law, Kevin's grandmother, Gertrude Fields (Elaine Stritch), appears and they have an indignant argument, while Gertrude takes a liking to Charlie, saying she is stunning, her grandson is a lucky man, that she is an "exotic Latina", and if only her son, Kevin's father, was as lucky to find a woman like Charlie. Gertrude's resentment of Viola bears a strong resemblance to Viola's feelings of animosity toward Charlie. Gertrude even believes that Kevin's father had died years ago of "terminal disappointment," for which Gertrude holds Viola responsible. Viola counters stating Gertrude "smothered him to death" because she thought nobody was ever good enough for him (basically similar to how Viola is). Gertrude, satisfied she got her last word in, leaves; showing she still favors Charlie. Charlie decides to back down as she witnesses Gertrude and Viola's relationship. "Nothing's going to change," she laments to Viola after Gertrude leaves the room, "In thirty years that will be us."
Charlie exits to tell Kevin that the wedding is off. But before that can happen, Ruby enters and talks with Viola. Viola is miffed that Charlie compared her to Gertrude, although Ruby points out that Viola is actually far worse than Gertrude, as she doesn't ever recall Gertrude trying to poison Viola once, referring to earlier at the rehearsal dinner when Viola put crushed nuts (which Charlie is highly allergic to) in the meal's gravy. Ruby points out that Viola's efforts against Charlie to make Kevin happy are unwarranted. "Whatever made you think he wasn't?" is her final point. Viola has an epiphany and realizes that she wants Charlie to stay, and they reconcile, which ends the feud. Charlie then explains to Viola that she wants her to stay, too, on one condition: if Viola accepts the boundaries Charlie needs, if she is present at any family event, and if she treats her children with love.
Charlie and Kevin then get married and when Charlie throws her wedding bouquet, Viola catches the flowers. As Charlie and Kevin drive away to their honeymoon, the film ends as Viola and Ruby walk out of the celebration.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 17% based on 165 reviews, and an average rating of 3.5/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "While Jane Fonda steals the movie in her return to the screen, a tired script and flimsy performances make this borderline comedy fall flat." Metacritic gave the film a weighted average score of 31 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film one out of possible four stars, saying: "You do not keep Jane Fonda offscreen for 15 years, only to bring her back as a specimen of rabid Momism. You write a role for her. It makes sense. It fits her. You like her in it. It gives her a relationship with Jennifer Lopez that could plausibly exist in our time and space. It gives her a son who has not wandered over after the "E.R." auditions. And it doesn't supply a supporting character who undercuts every scene she's in by being more on-topic than any of the leads." Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal also panned the movie, and used his review to deride the state of big-budget film-making, writing: "Films like this ... are emblematic of Hollywood's relentless dumbing-down and defining-down of big-screen attractions. There's an audience for such stuff, but little enthusiasm or loyalty. Adult moviegoers are being ignored almost completely during all but the last two or three months of each year, while even the kids who march off to the multiplexes each weekend know they're getting moldy servings of same-old, rather than entertainments that feed their appetite for surprise and delight." Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle was one of the few critics who gave the film a positive review, writing: "It's a crude, obvious comedy, which occasionally clunks, but it's often very funny, as well as being a really shrewd bit of popular entertainment. Its appeal resides in a lot of things, not the least of which is a sophisticated awareness of what an audience brings to it."
The $43-million film became a box-office success debuting at number #1 at the box office, earning $83 million ($154.7 worldwide) during its theatrical run in summer 2005.
Home media Edit
The two-disc set DVD was released on August 30, 2005 with these features: Audio Commentary, 7 Deleted Scenes, a Blooper Reel, and 4 Featurettes:
- "Welcome Back Jane"
- "A Jennifer of All Trades"
- "Vartan the Man"
- "Trendsetters" (2 Parts)
- "Monster-in-Law (2005)" (select "Details" tab). American Film Institute. Retrieved September 9, 2018.
- "Monster-in-Law (2005)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
- Monster-in-Law at Rotten Tomatoes
- "Monster-in-Law Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
- Ebert, Roger (2005-05-12). "Monster-in-Law". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2017-10-27.
- Morgenstern, Joe (2005-05-13). "Monster-in-Law". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2019-04-26.
- LaSalle, Mick. "Honey, meet my mother. Now please try not to kill each other". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2017-10-27.
- Monster-in-Law at Box Office Mojo
- Andreeva, Nellie. "'Monster-In-Law' Comedy Series Based On Movie In Works At Fox". Deadline.com. Retrieved 3 December 2015.