Reviewed by: Keith Howland
|Featuring:||Jennifer Lopez, Jane Fonda, Michael Vartan, Wanda Sykes, Monet Mazur|
|Producer:||Richard Brener, Julio Caro, J.C. Spink|
|Distributor:||New Line Cinema|
Should I save sex for marriage? Answer
How far is too far? What are the guidelines for dating relationships? Answer
What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer
What’s wrong with being gay? Answer
She met the perfect man. Then she met his mother.
Charlotte (known as “Charlie,” Jennifer Lopez) lives life day-to-day, content but ever seeking. She works temp jobs to avoid being locked into doing one thing her whole life. As the film begins, she is a dog walker, doctor’s assistant, and caterer. She is single.
Kevin (Michael Vartan) is a handsome, successful, too-good-to-be-true doctor. He is single.
One day while Charlie is walking dogs on the beach, she sees Kevin jog by in his swimsuit. Later the same day, she is catering a party that happens to be for him. Fate? Well, Kevin did see Charlie see him on the beach and at the party. Plus, the movie is called “Monster In-Law”…
Viola (Jane Fonda) is a celebrity, daytime television interviewer—an “important” one, like Jane Pauley. She is wealthy and established, but her career is her life. (She is a widow and thrice divorced, so not too happy at home.) She is also getting older, and has just been informed of her impending replacement by a very young woman whose qualifications do not exceed being photogenic. Viola intends to ride out her remaining days with dignity, but the ignominy of it all is just too much, and she suffers a breakdown.
After a few months of institutionalization and therapy, Viola is released into the care of her long-suffering assistant, Ruby, and she claims to be fully healed. She still lacks inhibition, however—a problem that is soon exacerbated when Kevin visits to introduce Charlie to her, and then proceeds to propose marriage in front of her. It is utterly clear to Viola that this mere temp (whom she knows nothing else about) is insufficient for her only, much-beloved son. Kevin is all she has, and she will not stand by and watch his personal life end in the shambles she sees her own life in.
That is all the development this film provides. From the proposal (and Charlie’s acceptance) onwards, Viola is single-mindedly intent on making life so miserable for Charlie that she will relent and not marry Kevin. But soon Charlie realizes what Viola is doing and reacts in kind, thereby instigating an outright war of mutual meanness and escalating retaliation.
This is Jane Fonda’s first film in fifteen years. She appears to be enjoying herself immensely throughout her over-the-top performance. (She chews so much scenery, it is amazing there is any left by the end of the film.) Too bad we cannot have so much fun watching the film she inhabits.
The film’s flaws are legion—in plot, character, and tone. The story is all about shameless spite (except for a ludicrous turnabout at the end). It is awkward and embarrassing to watch, in part, because it is so mean-spirited, and in part because it is so underdeveloped. Viola’s nastiness is largely unfounded and therefore unrealistic. Instead of watching a character behaving in ways stemming from realistic character traits stimulated by what befalls her, we see only the wild machinations of a “monster” bred by nothing more than the requirements of the film’s title.
Perhaps Charlie’s retaliations are understandable enough, but she must do so in kind, therefore taking herself out of reality, too. Real people just do not interact this way for sustained periods.
Meanwhile, Kevin is absurdly ignorant of any dissention between fiancée and mother. How he can fail to see behavior that, in reality, would lead to police intervention? Other main characters are not people, but comic ciphers, and clichéd stereotypes. The viewer is therefore kept emotionally at a distance, guffawing intermittently as though watching orangutans at the zoo.
The film is also offensive on many counts. We have come to expect “romance” movies to be about beautiful people meeting in a cute, contrived way and falling swiftly into bed. Thankfully, the falling into bed part is only referred to in this film, by the fact that the couple moves in together before marriage. This makes the concept no less offensive, however, and the restraint in this area is not matched elsewhere in the film. The language is full of profanities, sexual innuendo, and uses of the name of God and Jesus in irreverent ways. Sexual references include much mention of promiscuity and homosexuality as though they were totally normal.
This view of sexuality is entirely contradictory to the truth revealed in God’s Word, which is that God instituted sex as an act between one husband and one wife within the covenant of marriage (Genesis 2:18-24; Matthew 19:4-6; I Corinthians 6:16). As such, God prohibits sex apart from marriage (Exodus 20:14; Matthew 5:27-28). This includes any sexual activity not between one husband and his one wife—thus God calls homosexuality “detestable” (Leviticus 18:22), and catalogs all sexual immorality along with theft, drunkenness, slander, swindling, and idolatry as sinful traits that exclude people from the kingdom of God (I Corinthians 6:9-10).
That said, God mercifully grants complete forgiveness to all people who would commit such sins. Nobody is beyond His redemption in Christ--rather, those whom He forgives are washed clean of these sins and are called to live in them no longer (I Corinthians 6:11).
The film includes mention of horoscopes, karma and use of Tarot cards. Charlie claims to be “more spiritual than religious.” Each of these things posit a worldview in which there is no God—no absolute personal being who created us and to whom we are subject.
Again, this is contrary to the truth. From the very first sentence in the Bible (Genesis 1:1), we are told that there is one pre-existent, supreme, personal deity who created everything, and especially created humanity to bear His image of perfect righteousness. This we have all failed to do since Adam and Eve (Genesis 3; Romans 3:23; etc.), and therefore we are distanced from Him by our own sin.
This is the central fact of all human existence that “spirituality” consisting only of introspection and personal feelings fails to address. Death and damnation await every sinner, and only personal profession of Jesus as Lord (John 14:6; Romans 10:9-10; etc.) can reconcile someone to God and save him or her from this just fate. But claiming Jesus as Savior necessarily entails repentance of sin--be it rage, homosexuality, or anything else—and repentance requires recognition that the behavior in question is indeed sinful.
There is no room at all in this film for acknowledgement that any action is wrong, except in the sense that it resulted in consequences for which a character did not wish. That, above all, is why this “Monster” is so offensive.
If your idea of entertainment is a couple of shamelessly immoral people being sadistic to each other, then this film is for you. All others steer clear.
Violence: Minor / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/nudity: Mild
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.