It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Faithful readers will know I'm an admirer of Jennifer Lopez, and older readers will recall my admiration for Jane Fonda, who I first met on the set of "Barbarella" (1968), so it has been all uphill ever since. Watching "Monster-in-Law," I tried to transfer into Fan Mode, enjoying their presence while ignoring the movie. I did not succeed. My reveries were interrupted by bulletins from my conscious mind, which hated the movie.
I hated it above all because it wasted an opportunity. 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.
No, you don't get rid of the supporting character, whose name is Ruby and who is played by Wanda Sykes. What you do is lift the whole plot up on rollers, and use heavy equipment to relocate it in Ruby's universe, which is a lot more promising than the rabbit hole this movie falls into. "Monster-in-Law" fails the Gene Siskel Test: "Is this film more interesting than a documentary of the same actors having lunch?"
The movie opens by establishing Charlotte "Charlie" Cantilini (Lopez) as an awfully nice person. She walks dogs, she works as a temp, she likes to cook, she's friendly and loyal, she roughs it on Venice Beach in an apartment that can't cost more than $2,950 a month, she has a gay neighbor who's her best bud. I enjoyed these scenes, right up until the Meet Cute with Young Dr. Kevin Fields (Michael Vartan), a surgeon who falls in love with her. She can't believe a guy like that would really like a girl like her, which is unlikely, since anyone who looks like Jennifer Lopez and walks dogs on the boardwalk has already been hit on by every dot.com entrepreneur and boy band dropout in Santa Monica, along with Donald Trump and Charlie Sheen.