Friday, January 13, 2006

Review of 'Monster-in-Law'

Review of 'Monster-in-law'

Everyone has a genre of movies which they love watching for ‘timepass’, and which can be characterised by the non-enthusiast as 'trash'. Some watch Shah Rukh Khan movies and some watch Van Damme. My category can largely be classified as chick flicks. But even within chick flicks, I have my standards. The thing about a chick flick is that it must follow certain rules - (a) heroines must be lovable, (b) jokes cannot be stale, (c) in the last scene when evildoers miraculously reform, I should feel a warm glow and (d) it must not star J Lo.

Against my better judgement, I broke rule (d). I have nothing against J Lo movies, except probably, an instinct of self-preservation. I had seen snippets of 'The Wedding Planner' and 'Maid in Manhattan', both of which reinforced this instinct. But Chennai is a small city and if you have not been watching movies in theatres for a long time, you tend to rationalise along the lines of 'Any movie is better than no movie. So let us go for a JLo movie'.

‘Monster-in-law’ is a movie that is as cliched as they come. The heroine's male friend is predictably gay. As they said in the Bollywood classic, ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’, “Ek ladka aur ladki kabhi dost nahi ban sakte unless the guy is gay” The Indian censor board of course edited the part after 'sakte' depriving generations of Indians this pearl of wisdom till they watched Hollywood flicks. The plot is simple - JLo hitches with rich guy. The guy's mom decides to prevent the marriage by giving hell. This plot line itself seemed a bit incredible to me given that I am used to Indian mothers who spend entire movies convincing their progeny to get married - that they give hell later is a different issue. Anyway, back to J Lo and Mother-in-law (a decent Jane Fonda) who spar it out in a series of bitchy events. Till the ending when an 'unforeseen, unexpected surprise factor' (No she does not have cancer. This is not Bollywood guys !) makes Jane Fonda undergo a complete change of heart and give her blessings to the union.

The cast does what is expected of it - roll eyes, smirk, be over-the-top et al; unfortunately in a very ‘hey look at me. I am acting’ manner. The hero is there purely for a support role; though that is something I approve of since 95% of all movies usually place a heroine for arm candy purposes and chick flicks is where this is reversed.

There is not a single scene where you want to laugh (Yes. There are laugh-out-aloud parts in chick flicks - remember ‘Bridget Jones's Diary’). There are very few scenes that can even crank a smile out of you. J Lo turning the tables on her ma-in-law when she hands her a peach matron-of-honour gown should have been funny. But it was not. The movie clearly tries to follow the rules of a good chick-flick as defined by me, but mediocrity in everything keeps getting in the way.

The one thing that came out of it is that my bias about JLo has changed. If any of you, like me, thinks she looks like a slutty tramp ready to pack a powerful punch, then the movie reinforces that notion. But her acting is no better or no worse than what you would expect to see in a chick flick. Next time I shall drop rule (d). As for Monster-in-law, it should be Monster-outlawed(Aha. Isn’t it great when titles of bad movies lend themselves to such easy comic criticism?)

Anita B.

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