MONSTER-IN-LAW ($29) is one of those movies that is going to feel very familiar to audiences. Lets face it, MONSTER-IN-LAW takes stock comedy characters and situations, then drops them into a mixing bowl to creates something that weíve all seen countless times before. This isnít to say that MONSTER-IN-LAW isnít funny or lacks charm- its just that this movie isnít particularly original and audience are likely to guess the plot turns in advance of the characters. What MONSTER-IN-LAW does have going for it, is the presence of Jane Fonda, who hasnít appeared in a movie in fifteen years. Fonda certainly hasnít lost her acting chops and continually rises above the material.
The plot of MONSTER-IN-LAW finds Fonda portraying legendary network TV newswoman Viola Fields, whose career is brought to an abrupt end, when she is unceremoniously dumped in favor of a youthful Barbie doll designed to appeal to a younger demographic. While conducting her final interview with a vacuous seventeen-year-old pop starlet, Viola goes off the deep end and needs to spend some quiet time in a facility with quilted wallpaper. Upon her discharge, Viola decides to make her doctor son Kevin (Michael Vartan) the focus of her life, but much to her chagrin, Viola discovers that Kevin has a new woman in his life Charlotte 'Charlie' Cantilini (Jennifer Lopez). When Kevin brings Charlie home to meet Viola, he commits the ultimate offense of proposing to Charlie right in front of dear old mom. Unable to face the rejection of her son, on top of the rejection of the network, Viola decides to become the Mother-In-Law from hell, and scare off the competition for her sonís affection. Watching JaneFo square off against JLo is pretty darn funny, plus MONSTER-IN-LAW also benefits from the comic presence of Wanda Sykes as Violaís wisecracking assistant Ruby. The cast of MONSTER-IN-LAW also includes Adam Scott, Annie Parisse, Monet Mazur and Elaine Stritch.
New Line Home Entertainment has made has made MONSTER-IN-LAW available on DVD in a 2.35:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. A full screen version is also offered on a separate layer of the DVD, for anyone who cares (this reviewer did not). Not surprisingly, New Like cranks out another fine looking transfer. The image is consistently sharp and very nicely defined. Colors are warm, richly saturated and produce very appealing flesh tones. Blacks appear accurate, as do the whites, plus the picture features smooth contrast and healthy shadow detail. The film elements are virtually pristine and there is very little appreciable grain.
MONSTER-IN-LAW comes with a fairly standard comedy mix, encoded into 5.1 channels of Dolby Digital. The sound design is decidedly front heavy, with most of the sound emanating from the forward soundstage. As for the rear channels, well, the surrounds do augment the mix with ambient sounds, some light effects and a good bit of musical fill, which is pretty standard for a talky screen comedy. Music comes across with solid fidelity and fills the outlying channels nicely. The bass channel keeps everything grounded, but never calls attention to itself. Voices have a warm, natural quality, plus the filmís dialogue is always completely understandable. No other language tracks have been included on the DVD, but English and Spanish subtitles are provided.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across both discs of this set. Disc one features a running Audio Commentary with director Robert Luketic, actress Wanda Sykes, producer Chris Bender, production designer Missy Stewart and director of photography P. Russell Carpenter. A soundtrack listing with previews for individual tracks is also featured on disc one, as well as a few New Line title previews.
Moving on to disc two, one will find the remainder of the supplemental programming. Starting things off are seven Deleted Scenes with directorís introduction. Rubyís Makeup Bag offers an amusing clip of Wanda Sykes in a music video spoof. Next is a five minute Gag Reel. Moving on, we hit the documentary section. Welcome Back, Jane Fonda! is an eight minute program that heralds the actresses return to the screen on this project. Keeping It Real With Jennifer is a six-minute PR piece letting us all know how down to Earth Jlo is. Robert Luketic: The Man Behind The Monster is a seventeen-minute piece on the director and the project. Vartan the Man! clocks in at over five minutes and focuses on the movieís leading man. Trendsetters is a two part program broken up into Lifestyles and Fashions that spends ten minutes on the filmís sets and costumes. Two theatrical teasers, a theatrical trailer and previews for other New Line titles close out the supplements.
While the plot certainly lacks originality, MONSTER-IN-LAW still generates more than a few belly laughs. Also, itís nice to see Jane Fonda back on the screen and hopefully weíll be seeing her again in more original projects. As for New Lineís DVD its looks great and offers some nice extras. If you are in the mood for a few laughs and want to see Jane Fondaís return to the cinema, then MONSTER-IN-LAW is worth checking out.
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