Josh Bell

After 15 years away from the movies, Jane Fonda finally returns to acting to star in ... a Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy that's a rip-off of Meet the Parents? It seems too bizarre to be true, but here's the legendary Fonda in Monster-in-Law, making like Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand in the Parents sequel Meet the Fockers, overacting and chewing scenery and most likely having a great time playing a ridiculous character in an asinine movie. Fonda's certainly earned the right to be indulgent, but that doesn't mean she couldn't have picked a better comeback vehicle than this warmed-over, poorly written, crass marketing ploy.

Lopez doesn't come off any better, playing for the umpteenth time a vapid, free-spirited romantic with a heart of gold. Her Charlie drifts from job to job, working as a dog walker, yoga instructor, caterer and temp, happy in her simple life that somehow affords her a huge apartment. She's lonely, though, in the way that incredibly attractive and ridiculously nice women are lonely only in movies. Enter bland doctor Kevin (Michael Vartan), who sweeps Charlie off her feet and soon whisks her off to meet his mother, Viola (Fonda), with whom he's extremely close.

Viola is a Barbara Walters-esque TV journalist who constantly brags about having interviewed heads of state, but after being dumped from her TV show for being too old, she heads off the deep end, gets institutionalized, and is released just in time to learn of her son's new love. Although we're meant to believe that Viola is a venerated journalist, she comes off as an insecure, vindictive shrew, taking an instant dislike to Charlie for no apparent reason and dedicating herself to making her son's girlfriend (and eventual fiancée) miserable.

Lopez coasts through the role that she's become known for, but J. Lo is no match for J. Fo. Fonda is in overdrive the entire film, diving into Viola's insanity with a gusto that's completely out of proportion to the quality of the material. Characters act without motivation, shifting personalities when it's convenient to the plot. Lopez and Vartan have less than no chemistry, and the film portrays women as jealous, manipulative bitches, while men are hapless boobs with no emotional intelligence. It's nice that Fonda had fun and donated her salary to charity, but this exhaustingly bad film will make you miss the days when she made exercise videos.

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