The American, and slightly more diabolical version of our very own "Tu Tu Main Main" is Robert Luketic's Jane Fonda starrer, Monster-In-Law. Rather than episodic madness, this one is two hours of prolonged scheming and dodging by a wizened, botoxed, primped and lipsticked mother-in-law Viola (Jane Fonda), and a luscious Charlotte (Jennifer Lopez) wearing dresses that are flimsier than lingerie.
So Charlotte/Charlie sashays into the life of Kevin (Michael Vartan) as she is walking about ten dogs on straps similar to the ones she is wearing. And Kevin responds like one of the dogs, snapping at her heels, hanging out a thick tongue and sniffing up her every time she comes in sight. It's all quick and painless, and soon enough, they are in the clutches of full-blown, glorious, unspeckled love.
Between mush that feels as deep as a bowl of custard feels to a sinking fly, the lovebirds progress to a meeting with the matriarch of Kevin's binary family. Viola, his mother is a shrew of the worst kind, and manages to look like a harridan through her ultra-chic and impeccable dressing.
A career-above-all-else ambitious neurotic, she can be handled only by her personal assistant Ruby. Viola visits a psychiatrist, takes pills for anxiety, and beeps Kevin about 20 times in a day. Controlling, power-hungry and insecure, she is introduced as a horror worth being cast in wax at Madame Tussaud's.
Charlie and Kevin come to meet her over lunch, and while you are checking out Lopez's pastel-pink lip-color for that particular scene against Fonda's juicy crimson (the colors and clothes are half the attraction in this movie), they are checking out each other. Charlie is naïve, angelic and ever ready to fit into their cozy family, while Viola is having a hard time feigning decency. And when Kevin suddenly pops the question to the shock of both of them, Viola makes a dash inside and starts invoking the spirits to relieve her misery.
Well, Viola gets more and more obnoxious by the minute. She plots against, pries on, investigates about, and overbears on Charlie in an attempt to force her out of the engagement. Lopez's utter confusion at her behavior is hilarious. And Fonda, as the xanthippe, is formidable. Kevin is like the little wisp that snakes its way in and out of every scene, between the two women. Here to give Charlie a little peck on the cheek, there to give Viola a hug, and here back-again for a quick make-out on the couch with Charlie.
Behind his back, the girls rage on. Soon enough, Charlie finds out that her MIL is faking half her anxiety neuroses just to pressurize her into leaving her little boy alone. The spirit of Star TV style family-soaps is drawn upon mysteriously and accurately here, as Ekalavya probably did from Drona. The daughter-in-law's transformation into a cunning witch, and her teaching her mom-in-law a resounding lesson is right out of every Indian saas-bahu soap that ever graced the TV screens.
In fact, Lopez also does a Chaalbaaz-style Sridevi. She gathers a lash in her hands and gives Fonda's shriveled butt a sound whipping. Almost. She plays games back on her, undoes her plots, and becomes one-up in the game of slighting and embarrassing the other.
Eventually, her wedding is fixed, planned the way she wants, and Viola is forced to wear a silly looking, ruffle-laden peach bridesmaid's dress, her worst nightmare. But then comes the denouement - oh, that much needed epiphany of love, caring, sharing and all that crap.
During an ultra-sharp slapping session between Charlie and Viola, the former suddenly realizes that it's all not worth it. Good sense quickly rushes in, sensing the vacuum, and both women hug each other merrily.
Life, in mush movies, is what happens when logic and rationality randomly leave home. When they randomly come back, it's time to flash the titles.
Well, well, well - to sum up, a fair movie to keep your mind exercised enough to work up a wonderful stretch and yawn when you leave your seat. There are laughs galore: predictable humor - all the more so to the Indian psyche that holds a Ph. D. in documenting and understanding saas-bahu dynamics. And Jennifer Lopez's unclassifiable, itsy-bitsy, flowery numbers leave room for a lot to be seen. As for Jane Fonda, she will motivate you to try out one of her aerobic videos. So watch this one with friends or your significant other. If you are alone, you will look at it more critically than it can stand.