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By Clint Morris | June 5, 2005

It’d take a titanic-sized carrot to lure a rabbit from it’s deep, uninhabited borough when it’s sleeping, but in the case of Jane Fonda, absent from the screens for fifteen years now, all it took to entice her back to the wondrous world of cinema was a fluffy rom-com headlined by JLo.

Granted, “Monster-In-Law” isn’t a bad comeback vehicle. It’s a hell of a role for Fonda, and predominantly, a much more appealing bit of fluff than the usual syrup Jennifer Lopez forces upon us.

Give me a second, and I’ll give you a synopsis: Former TV journalist Viola Fields (Fonda) is fresh out of the looney bin – she lost it when she found out she was being replaced by a young skirt – but son Kevin (Michael Vartan), is still determined to introduce his new fiancée Charlie (Lopez) to her. Mum goes ballistic – this Latino woman, who works as a temp of all things, isn’t good enough for her boy, naturally – and the imminent in-laws kick off a calculating, premeditated war. Cue the scheming, bitching, slapping, drugging, backstabbing and ultimate surrender.

It is amusing, and the characters are a hoot, but there’s one inimitable thing about “Monster-In-Law”: it seems awfully familiar. If you’ve seen any of the wild wedding or in-law from hell flicks from the last few years, notably “Meet the Parents”, “My Best Friend’s Wedding”, or “Guess Who?” – you’ve seen this.

At the same time, a greatest hits compilation never fails to deliver – and even though you’ve endured the tracks many times before, they still play well. And will again, and again…

In another director’s hands, “Monster-In-Law” could’ve been egg on the face of the divine Fonda – especially since it’s her first film since 1990’s “Stanley and Iris” – or another black-mark against Jenny from the Block’s ticket, but mercifully, Robert Luketic (“Legally Blonde”) transforms the anachronistic stencil into something vivacious, fresh-scented and mostly, quite funny. In addition, Lopez and Fonda make a great double-act, bouncing off each other like a couple of well-oiled dodgems.

Like a good record producer, “Monster-In-Law” pushes all the right buttons, and while it does seem in too much of a hurry to reach the finish line – the last ten minutes of the film seem a little too expediently hurried – it all still results in a worthwhile-enough mix.

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