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Robert Luketic
Jennifer Lopez, Jane Fonda, Michael Vartan, Wanda Sykes, Adam Scott, Annie Parisse, Monet Mazur, Elaine Stritch, Will Arnett
Writing Credits:
Anya Kochoff

She met the perfect man. Then she met his mother.

After years of incredibly bad dates, Charlie (Jennifer Lopez) thinks she's met the perfect man ... until she meets his possessive and merciless mother! Jane Fonda returns to Hollywood to play the worst mother-in-law ever who will do everything she can to break up the happy couple!

Box Office:
$60 million.
Opening Weekend
$23.105 million on 3424 screens.
Domestic Gross
$82.306 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 101 min.
Price: $28.98
Release Date: 8/30/2005

Disc One
• Audio Commentary With Director Robert Luketic, Actor Wanda Sykes, Producer Chris Bender, Production Designer Missy Stewart and Director of Photography P. Russell Carpenter
• Sneak Peeks
Disc Two
• ”Welcome Back, Jane Fonda!” Featurette
• “Keeping It Real With Jennifer” Featurette
• “Vartan the Man!” Featurette
• “Robert Luketic – The Man Behind the Monster” Featurette
• “Trendsetters” 2-Part Featurette
• Gag Reel
• Deleted Scenes with Director Introduction
• “Ruby’s Makeup Bag”
• Trailers


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Monster-In-Law (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 17, 2005)

Ah, the joys of counter-programming! That theory leads studios to release decidedly non-summer fare in the midst of the big blockbuster season. The idea is that audiences – primarily older ones – will be so sick of all the bombastic summer flicks that they’ll flock to anything different. Sometimes this works, ala the success of Seabiscuit in 2003 or Forrest Gump in 1994.

And sometimes it doesn’t go so well. Even with Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg behind it, The Terminal flopped in 2004, and 2005’s Cinderella Man was a notable disappointment. That same year’s Monster-In-Law attempted to give the ladies something to watch in the middle of the Star Wars rampage – heck, My Big Fat Greek Wedding was a prominent summer sleeper in 2002, the last year with a Star Wars movie – but it didn’t manage to escape the onslaught. Though the movie snagged a decent $82 million, it didn’t live up to expectations and it quickly slinked away in the midst of the major summer flicks.

Charlie Cantilini (Jennifer Lopez) works as a temp and other odd jobs but aspires to be a fashion designer. She struggles in relationships until she has serendipitous meetings with hunky Dr. Kevin Fields (Michael Vartan). Things go comically awry for a while, but eventually the pair connect and they move in together.

Before this happens, we meet Kevin’s domineering mother Viola (Jane Fonda). A legendary TV newswoman, she goes through an upsetting downturn when the suits replace her with a younger model. This leads to a very public meltdown – and a stay at a clinic for her to recover from her angst.

This keeps Viola out of circulation for months, and she plans to take a trip with Kevin when she gets out of the clinic. Viola learns of his relationship with Charlie at that time, and she clearly doesn’t feel too pleased with it. Viola puts on a happy face for her first meeting with Charlie, and the pair seem to get along well.

Until Kevin pops the question – right in front of his mom. She reacts to this about as well as she took her replacement at work and freaks out big time. When she regains her composure, she forms a goal: the sabotage the relationship. The rest of the film follows Viola’s attempts to break up the couple – and the methods Charlie uses when she fights back against her future in-law.

Am I the only one who experienced a serious case of déjà vu throughout Monster-In-Law? While the film concentrates on scenarios that make it different from 2000’s Meet the Parents, the concept remains the same. Monster may not be a photocopy of Parents, but it clearly borrows from the prior flick for inspiration.

And from a lot of other movies as well. I don’t think Monster offers a single original moment. Within the first few minutes, we meet Charlie’s gay neighbor, Viola’s sassy black assistant, and Kevin’s bitchy former girlfriend. These characters come straight out of the Big Book of Movie Clichés, and not a single one comes to life. I suppose making Ruby an assistant instead of a maid is a nod to political correctness, but she’s a stereotype nonetheless.

And then there’s Kevin himself, Exhibit “A” from the aforementioned Big Book. Chick flicks like this almost never offer male leads with the slightest amount of testosterone, and Monster follows suit. Kevin adds up to little more than a prop in this setting. The film offers him as the perfect man: handsome, modest, helpful, thoughtful, caring, totally devoted, understanding – and a doctor to boot! Too bad they forgot to give him the slightest amount of backbone or personality. Vartan manages to avoid any form of character or charisma; he blends into the scenery.

I suppose that’s necessary so we can see the Battle of the Divas. Admittedly, when Lopez and Fonda take off the gloves, the movie improves considerably. They exhibit a nice bitchy chemistry that makes those moments lively and entertaining. When those two go at it, you can almost forget how contrived and pedestrian everything else is.

Almost. Unfortunately, Monster-In-Law spends too much time with Contrived and Pedestrian and too little with Bitchy Glory. We see two dogs hump within the flick’s first three minutes. That ain’t a good sign, and not until the sparks fly between Lopez and Fonda does the film become watchable. Too bad those scenes fly by quickly and we’re left with the inevitable sappy ending.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Monster-in-Law appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. The transfer lacked significant flaws, but it looked a bit lackluster at times.

Actually, the majority of the time, I felt the movie came across as pretty strong. Sharpness usually seemed nicely crisp and distinctive. A few interiors looked somewhat fuzzy, but those were infrequent. Otherwise, the flick was pretty detailed. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, but a bit of edge enhancement popped up through the movie. Interiors displayed a smidgen of grain. The rest of the movie lacked any signs of flaws like specks or marks.

The palette kept things warm and looked very good. Colors stayed in the natural range, with an emphasis on rich golds. The hues were consistently vivid and lacked any concerns. Blacks also seemed deep and firm, while low-light shots were smooth and easily visible. The sharpness was a bit too tentative for my liking, but the overall impression left by the transfer was good enough for a “B”.

As one might expect from a comedic chick flick, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Monster-In-Law lacked sonic ambition. The front channels heavily dominated the piece, and they only sporadically offered much life of their own. Music provided pretty good stereo imaging, but effects didn’t present a lot of information. Though the occasional example of effects popped up on the side, little more occurred in this subdued piece.

In regard to the surrounds, they added some light reinforcement of the music and effects. However, I felt hard-pressed to cite many examples where I definitely noticed audio from the rear. Beach scenes added a bit of life, and the scene in which Viola yammered incessantly at Charlie put Fonda’s voice in the rears. Otherwise, there wasn’t a lot happening in the surrounds.

Although the scope of the track was limited, the quality of the audio was fine. Speech came across as concise and well defined. I discerned no concerns related to edginess or intelligibility. Music showed good range and dynamics, as the score was bright and distinct throughout the movie. Despite their small role in the presentation, effects also seemed clean and accurate. The mix featured acceptable bass response and clarity overall. It simply failed to present an engaging soundfield, so it earned only a lackluster “B-“.

This two-disc release includes a mix of extras. On the first platter, the main attraction comes from an audio commentary with director Robert Luketic, actor Wanda Sykes, producer Chris Bender, production designer Missy Stewart and director of Photography P. Russell Carpenter. The commentary comes from at least three – and possibly four – different sessions. Luketic sits with Sykes for one, Bender for another, and Stewart and Carpenter together for a third. He also appears to do some solo recordings for a possible fourth.

All those sessions and so little to show for them! Despite the large number of participants, this edited commentary usually comes across as forgettable. We learn about cinematography and lighting, sets and locations, production design, casting and the way the actors worked, and the development of the project. Some of the moments about the differing methods used by Fonda and Lopez offer good material, and I like the explanation of why Luketic prefers the 2.35:1 format.

Unfortunately, far too much of the commentary consists of bland praise for various scenes and all the participants. There’s a surprising amount of dead air for a multiple commentator track as well. The piece picks up a little as it progresses. Ironically, some of the best moments come from Luketic solo and appear in the final 40 minutes of the movie. Nonetheless, the piece suffers from too many problems and too little good information to make it consistently worthwhile.

Soundtrack lists the songs on that release and lets you “preview” six of them. We also find some ads in the Sneak Peeks area. That section presents trailers for Wedding Crashers, The Whole Shebang, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and The New World.

Next we head to DVD Two and its components. Most of these come in the form of featurettes. We start with Welcome Back, Jane Fonda! This eight-minute and 20-second piece includes movie snippets, shots from the set, and comments from Luketic, Sykes, producer Paula Weinstein, and actors Jane Fonda, Jennifer Lopez, Elaine Stritch and Michael Vartan. We learn about how the producers lured Fonda into the film and why she chose to return to acting after 15 years. We also hear about Fonda’s attitude on the set. That means we get a lot of notes about how great Fonda is and how wonderful she was during the film. I learned almost nothing from this frothy puff piece.

In Keeping It Real With Jennifer, we get a six-minute and six-second program. In it we hear from Lopez, Fonda, Luketic, Vartan, Stritch, and actors Annie Parisse and Adam Scott. They talk about shooting a few scenes and which ones they like the best. We also get many, many comments about how terrific Lopez is and how she’s not the pushy diva reported in the press. Perhaps not, but this is still a dull, pointless program.

For more about the male lead, Vartan the Man! offers some notes. It fills five minutes and 45 seconds with remarks from Vartan, Lopez, Luketic, Fonda, Sykes, Scott, Bender, Parisse, Weinstein, and actor Will Arnett. We learn that Vartan loves to play cards and… not much else. Actually, the actor himself provides some funny cracks about his Mets-centric acting influences, but we don’t get any real information here.

We get additional information about the director in Robert Luketic – The Man Behind the Monster. The 17-minute and 58-second featurette includes statements from Luketic, Bender, Lopez, Fonda, Carpenter, Arnett, Vartan, Sykes, Scott, Stewart, editor Scott Hill and writer Anya Kochoff. We hear about the genesis of the project and its development, Luketic’s style on the set, how he collaborates with others, post-production and the premieres.

The remarks tell us little. The first parts about the movie’s origins have potential but are way too superficial, and after that, the comments usually stay fluffy and full of praise. The post-production information offers some meat, but even they suffer from way too much happy talk. However, “Man” features a lot of footage from the set and other situations, and these make the program watchable. We get nice glimpses of the production, so give “Man” a look for those.

A two-part featurette called Trendsetters lasts a total of 10 minutes and 38 seconds. We hear from Luketic, Lopez, Weinstein, Stewart, Fonda, Arnett, Scott, Vartan, Bender, and costume designer Kym Barrett. The shows discuss shooting in Los Angeles and various locations, stages and modifying homes, finding spots that fit the main characters, and the clothing design for those personalities. Of all the featurettes, “Trendsetters” definitely presents the least amount of fluff. Some still occurs, but we get a lot of nice notes about the various topics. The clothes section is especially interesting, as it goes over the looks of the characters well. These are useful programs.

The Gag Reel runs five minutes and one second. It works a bit better than most, largely because of some funny outtakes from the various Fonda/Lopez fight scenes. Unusually, it also includes a few clips from cast and crew interview sessions, so it’s not solely material from the set.

After this we find seven Deleted Scenes. Taken together along with a “Director Introduction”, these fill 12 minutes and 16 seconds. Mostly these consist of fairly minor scene extensions, though we get a couple of small, new pieces. They remain consistently inconsequential.

Ruby’s Makeup Bag offers a 98-second piece. In this wacky clip, we see Wanda Sykes take the place of the Britney-esque singer on the TV set. It’s moderately amusing.

Finally, we find some Trailers. The disc includes two teasers as well as the full theatrical ad. “Sneak Peeks” repeats the same commercials found on the first disc, which seems odd; why not present some new ones here?

Of course, since Monster-In-Law recycles so much of its material from other films, I guess that reuse of ads makes sense. Jane Fonda came out of retirement for this warmed-over piffle? Fonda’s amusingly nasty chemistry with Jennifer Lopez evokes the movie’s few minor charms, but otherwise it falls flat. The DVD presents pretty good picture and audio along with supplements marred by too much praise and too little concrete information. A wasted opportunity, Monster-In-Law boasts a few fun moments but suffers from too much tedium to be consistently enjoyable.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.75 Stars Number of Votes: 24
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