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by Willie Waffle

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Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda bring out the vitriol in many people (the scars of Gigli run deep y'all), so Monster-In-Law has two strikes against it as far as those folks are concerned. Sadly, they will miss out on one of 2005's best comedies.

Jennifer Lopez stars as Charlie - an artist and temp worker who lives a very simple life with her friends. One day, while working as a dog walker, she sees Kevin (Michael Vartan) jogging along the beach, and it is love at first sight. After several months of dating, Kevin decides it's time for Charlie to meet his mother, Viola (Jane Fonda) - a very famous television personality who suffered a major mental breakdown after being fired for a younger, prettier, dumber replacement. Not quite in her right mind, and worried she'll lose Kevin the way she lost her job, Viola declares war on Charlie and will not stop until she has broken up the young couple.

Will Viola succeed in stopping their love affair? Will Charlie fight back?

Tales of frightening, imposing mothers-in-law are as old as marriage itself, and this movie is full of stereotypes, but Monster-In-Law is far from a tired movie. While we have seen these types of antics and characters before, the movie is a laugh riot. Monster-In-Law is an outrageous, slapstick, over-the-top comedy that had me laughing throughout.

Director Robert Luketic and writer Anya Kochoff put the characters in funny scenarios, and bring some extra silliness as we see the fantasies harbored by Charlie and Viola. As with most movies such as this, it could have fallen apart towards the end as Luketic and Kochoff try to find some way to wrap up the action and establish a happy resolution, but the two come up with an acceptable, if not slightly sappy, conclusion true to the spirit of the film.

While Lopez has been the bigger star in the last few years, it's Jane Fonda who rules this movie, her first in 15 years. She's willing to go farther and zanier for a joke than we have ever seen, but always tries to bring some faux dignity to her character, which makes it even funnier. Lopez comes along for the ride, but I am getting tired of her Cinderella complex, which can be seen in her movies (Wedding Planner, Maid in Manhattan) and music (Jenny From the Block). She's so busy trying to convince us she's just a regular gal, Lopez ends up in wimpy roles. I'd rather see her unleash the bitch within, much like she does in the second half of Monster-In-Law, although, it's a woman somewhat guilty and holding back from becoming a 100% bitch. She could learn a lesson from Fonda and throw all of her apprehensions out the door and sacrifice the image for the laughs.

My only other problem with the film is Ruby, played by Wanda Sykes. She has the best lines in the movie, and perfectly fits the role of sassy sidekick, but Kochoff doesn't properly develop Ruby. As Viola's assistant, she is used to express dismay and contempt with the evil plot (as well as better judgment), but she also participates and helps Viola. Which is it? This conflict doesn't hurt the jokes too much, but some consistency would have helped. Sykes shows she can deliver one-liners better than just about anyone else in movies, so her performance masks over troubles with her character.

Monster-In-Law is hilarious, and justifies all of the Jane Fonda comeback hype.

3 ½ Waffles (Out of 4)

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