ZERO STARS/**** Image A Sound A- Extras D
starring Jennifer Lopez, Jane Fonda, Michael Vartan, Wanda Sykes
screenplay by Anya Kochoff
directed by Robert Luketic
by Walter Chaw I felt real pain as Monster-in-Law unfolded. It was the variety of headache that begins behind the eyes before settling somewhere in the gorge. Two whole lines in my notebook were devoted to the word "hate," and true enough, it took all of five minutes for me to know that I despised this film. Five minutes being the same amount of time it takes for the picture to resort to a dog-humping gag, something that has never been funny in any incarnation and is always, always a sign that the oft-dredged barrel bottom is getting scraped once more, with feeling. Monster-in-Law has Jane Fonda playing a fossilized Barbara Walters manqué who attacks a Britney Spears manqué on the day that Fonda's Viola Fields is fired. (The faux-Britney has mistaken Roe Vs. Wade for a boxing match, a crime of ditz maybe less egregious than, say, cheerfully having your picture taken on a North Vietnamese gun battery circa 1972.) Meanwhile, Jennifer Lopez continues to do a whinier, Puerto Rican Melanie Griffith. But the picture isn't about the age issue or the class issue or the race issue--how could it be when Viola owns an eye-rolling, foolishness-talking mammy slave archetype named Ruby (Wanda Sykes)? No, Monster-in-Law isn't about anything on purpose except Fonda's too-real desperation, great draughts of random ugliness, and extorting money from people who will say once the dust settles that I'm out of touch.